Book by Ryan D. Padgett and Cindy A. Kilgo
Review by Derek Furukawa, Ph.D.
Advising Center
University of Nevada, Reno

In thinking about your own institution’s success initiatives, it is probably easy to identify the interventions geared toward first-year students.  It may not be as easy to identify senior year experiences.  Padgett and Kilgo (2012), in 2011 National Survey of Senior Capstone Experiences, report on the senior year experience through analysis of data from 268 institutions that reported offering senior capstone experiences.  The study was administered by the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, demonstrating the importance of both freshman and senior-year experiences as bookends in student success.

The timeliness of this book can be seen as a perfect storm around the senior capstone experience.  The study of senior capstone experiences is relatively new, having started with Gardner et al.’s (1998) publication that identified the need for further study and the subsequent 1999 National Survey of Senior Seminars and Capstone Courses.  Since then, the amount of scholarly research on senior capstone experiences has been limited.  This lack of scholarship, coupled with the increased number of senior capstone experiences that are offered on college campuses today, contributed to the need for this publication.

The purpose of a senior capstone experience is to provide the final transition out of undergraduate education (Gardner et al., 1998).  One of the limitations of studying the senior capstone experience is the difficulty in assessing the experiences.  The composition of capstone experiences can vary widely from formal courses to senior projects and from discipline-based to multidisciplinary studies.  The study shows a heavy emphasis on course-based experience, but does not discount the importance of project-based experiences.  In fact, the authors encourage the documentation and assessment of project-based experiences so that more substantial data can be collected to include successful project-based initiatives.

I would be remiss to not mention that this book is very data-heavy.  As a research report, there are 40 pages of distribution tables which provide very helpful information from the study, but can be a bit off-putting upon initial glance.  However, the data contained in the book allows readers to tailor their search to specific characteristics that match their type of institution.  This book is a great resource for any higher education professional who is either passionate about senior capstone experiences or amidst implementation of capstone experiences in their respective area.
Academic advisors can walk away from this research report with a better understanding of why senior capstone experiences exist and how they fit into the undergraduate experience.  If a program’s advising works with students to transition them to life after the undergraduate degree, the capstone experience can be a great way to capture the graduating student audience.  Beyond those points, the bulk of the content better serves administrators than advisors.  For this reason, I would not recommend this research report for the general advisor unless their role works closely with capstone experiences for their respective program(s).

Gardner, J.N., Van der Veer, G., & Associates. (1998). The senior year experience: Facilitating integration, reflection, closure, and transition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Padgett, R.D., & Kilgo, C.A.. (2012). 2011 national survey of senior capstone experiences: Institutional-level data on the culminating experience (Research reports on college transitions No. 3). Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina, National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.

2011 National Survey of Senior Capstone Experiences: Institutional-Level Data on the Culminating Experience. (2012). Book by Ryan D. Padgett and Cindy A. Kilgo. Review by Derek Furukawa. Columbia, SC: National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience. 98 pp. $20.00, ISBN # 978-1-889-27186-6
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