At Concordia, all students are required to fulfill a capstone requirement before they graduate. According to Dictionary.com, a capstone is a “finishing stone of a structure” and Merriam-Webster calls it “a high point”. So, a capstone for us is an experience we have during our last year at Concordia that culminates our education. Some people complete this requirement through taking an upper level class, others participate in an experience or internship that qualifies as a capstone experience. I wasn’t sure what I would do for my capstone requirement my first couple years at Concordia, but as I started to map out my final years here I realized that one of the classes I was planning on taking to complete my neuroscience major had a capstone qualification. I didn’t know exactly what a capstone experience entailed, but since the pieces simply fell into place I decided to go ahead with taking neurochemistry my senior year.
A Liberal Arts Education
Neurochemistry is one of many classes I’ve been able to take here at Concordia. As part of the liberal arts education we are required to take a wide range of classes, each unique to their topic of study and structured as seen fit by the professor. Taking an art class is different than the religion classes, which is certainly different from chemistry classes and I’ve taken them all. Concordia has set forth 5 goals for a liberal arts education:
- Instill a love of learning
- Develop foundational skills and transferable intellectual capacities
- Develop an understanding of disciplinary, interdisciplinary, and intercultural perspectives and their connections
- Cultivate an examined cultural, ethical, physical and spiritual self-understanding
- Encourage responsible participation in the world
It may not be entirely clear how neurochemistry completed these 5 goals, but understand that these goals aren’t meant to be achieved by one class solely. This is what graduates of Concordia College are hoped to have experienced and achieved once they leave our learning community.
As eluded to, neurochemistry is a class unique to itself in its structure and content covered. I enjoyed the change in format for this class. We as the students were able to take our learning experience in our own hands and direct some of the class efforts in various directions we were interested in. The class began with learning various signaling pathways in the brain by reading scientific papers about each. We then discussed the pathways in class and were each responsible with contributing to the learning experience by posting answers about each pathway to a class wiki page. The next phase of the class was all about neurological diseases and understanding the biological and chemical dysfunction behind each. Again, we learned about various diseases through reading scientific articles and discussed them with each other in class. However, we went one step further each week with a neurological disease by directing our learning towards questions we each had surrounding the week’s topic. Each class member would research a subtopic related to the week’s topic and then report what they learned back to the class in little one-on-one quick chat sessions. The week rounded out the topic with a group discussion about the bigger picture issues within society and the science community. We showed our knowledge of the signaling pathways and neurological diseases through a combination written-oral exam, which really allowed us to explain what we learned.
In addition to all of this wonderful self-directed learning we were accomplishing, we also completed a collaborative community outreach project with a senior level social work class. After picking topics, we paired with a couple social work students to identify a need in the Concordia or Fargo-Moorhead community related to our topic. Once a need was identified and a target population, we brainstormed and created an outreach project aimed at attending to this need. The projects were proposed to our professors much like how a project would be proposed to a real-world foundation and once completed, a presentation given about the experience. My topic was anxiety and my group decided to go into a local high school and talk to juniors and seniors about anxiety following the transition after high school graduation. Our goal was to educate and raise awareness about anxiety as a neurological disease and provide them with some coping tools to use in the future in needed. Overall, our project was a great success. We were able to reach many high school students in their classrooms and offer some knowledge about the science behind anxiety and ways to combat it.
I’m still not entirely sure what a capstone requirement is suppose to be. With the range of options for a capstone experience at Concordia, I don’t think there’s just one model to fit and experience to. Neurochemistry was a great capstone experience in my opinion because if fulfilled at least some if not all of the 5 goals of a liberal arts education Concordia has set forth. I was able to learn more and take my learning experience into my own hands with the structure of the class. This elevated my interest in learning about neurochemistry. We discussed not only the science behind neurological disease, but also social implications and bigger picture issues of each. In doing this we brought in our own knowledge from other classes and experiences into discussion. Through our community action project, we even “Became Responsibly Engaged in the World”- BREWed, which is a mission Concordia College wants all its students to embark on following graduation as thoughtful and informed citizens of the world. Overall, I would definitely recommend this class to any science major senior looking for an interactive and educational capstone experience.
For more on the Capstone requirement at Concordia: https://www.concordiacollege.edu/directories/offices-services/deans-office/faculty-development/core-curriculum/
Feature Image: https://www.linkedin.com/company/capstonenutrition