my capstone experience

Margaret McCarthy '10, an English education major from Laconia, N.H., discusses her Capstone project that focused on the elements of feminism found in Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology. The Capstone project, which involves extensive research and presentation, is the culmination of each student's academic experience. While at Colby-Sawyer, McCarthy was active with Safe Zones and the Colby-Sawyer Players.

Describe your Capstone project and why you chose to focus on this subject.

My Capstone focused on the elements of feminism found in Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology, which was published in 1915 around the peak of the Women's Suffrage Movement. The female characters in the Anthology either serve as examples of women with strong, feminist traits, or as examples of the oppression that women faced which really drove the movement into existence.

What kinds of research did you conduct?

Most of my research was done on the Women's Suffrage Movement and essays about feminism in order to find connections between those women and the characters in the Anthology. Some research was done on Edgar Lee Masters himself to get more insight about the creation of his characters, but most of the research was to help connect my primary sources to the information.

What did you learn, and in what ways was the Capstone a culmination of your learning experience at Colby-Sawyer?

One of the greatest things I learned is that it's not enough just to love what you're researching. What's even better is to share that information in a way that will make others interested as well. Sometimes, just writing a paper about the facts you've found isn't enough to share the same passion you had for the subject, so it's your job to make it interesting for the readers.

Throughout my Colby-Sawyer experience, my best papers have been the ones in which I was genuinely interested. What's nice about most classes is that there is a freedom to write about a topic of your choice, and the best advice I can give is to choose a topic (related to the subject) that you actually want to know more about. Your fascination will show in the paper, and knowing this really helped with my Colby-Sawyer career.

What was most fun and rewarding for you in the Capstone process?

It was great to be able to do something new and unique for my research project. I was able to take the same amount of research that would have been done for a traditional research paper and present it as a dialogue. This way, it was informative and entertaining. Thinking of how to write my research dialogue in a way that kept my readers engaged was a great experience.

What did you find most challenging and difficult about the project?

Oddly enough, writing the dialogue was the most fun and the most challenging part! While it was interesting to share my research as dialogue, I still had to make sure that people would want to read it as a conversation. A script has the connotation of being entertaining, so I had to think about it like a TV show: If I saw this on television, would I change the channel? This thought kept me struggling to be sure that I mixed the facts in with some humor and drama to keep things interesting.

What do you hope will be the lasting value of your Capstone project, both for you and others?

I hope my project will show students that it's not that scary researching a topic that hasn't been done before. There was nothing out there directly about Edgar Lee Masters having feminist themes in Spoon River Anthology, so I needed to create those connections myself. It wasn't that bad, and I hope that my Capstone will encourage students to walk out on limbs when it comes to researching something they're interested in. Even if I wasn't able to find feminist themes in the Anthology, I did learn more about the subject.

How would you summarize your Colby-Sawyer experience?

Summarizing my experience at Colby-Sawyer is difficult. I have met so many people, learned so many facts, and experienced many new situations. It was all more than I could have dreamed. The students, faculty and staff have been there every step of the way for me, and it's been such an honor to know that I have made it through these four years with a strong support system. When I first came to Colby-Sawyer, I was under the impression that I would just be there to take my classes and get a degree. Looking back now, I realize that I have earned my degree not just from my classes, but from the whole Colby-Sawyer experience.