SUS 7501C & 7502C: Capstone Interdisciplinary Team Project

Updated Fall 2019. Subject to revision and further udpates.

Instructor: Katherine Gloede Silverman; various
Schedule: various (see below)
Location: Shepherd Hall 375; various
Two 3-credit courses


“This course is designed to teach skills that are required in addressing interdisciplinary problems in sustainability.  Students learn to work in teams on projects in disciplines unfamiliar to them. They develop confidence in tackling and solving problems where technology, economics, and environmental issues intersect. Teams that bring together students with different academic backgrounds are assembled. Lectures on project management and team-work are given early in the semester. Project topics are either selected from a list or proposed by students. … A formal report is prepared and submitted by the team at the end of the term.”  The program also requires submission of a mid-year written report, and a Project Management Log (both mid-year and final). Teams make two oral project presentations—mid-year and final.


The capstone interdisciplinary team project is actually a sequence of two 3-credit courses—SUS 7501C and SUS 7502C—that students take in successive semesters. The capstone project is required of all students in the program, and constitutes six credits out of the 30 credits required for the MS in Sustainability degree. NOTE: Students are eligible to begin a capstone project only if they have successfully completed at least three core courses (or two core courses, but with the third being taken concurrently with SUS 7501C).

Basic Features

  • Focuses on a real-world sustainability issue or problem that invites an interdisciplinary approach (e.g., some combination of engineering, architecture, sciences, and social sciences).
  • Is difficult/challenging, but still allows for meaningful progress in two semesters.
  • Offers avenues for substantial academic research, possibly leading to a journal article.

Capstone Project Time Commitments

The formally scheduled course meeting time is used primarily for purposes of the Capstone Workshops that take place over the course of four or five weeks early in the first semester of the project (SUS 7501C). Throughout the duration of SUS 7501C and SUS 7502C, it is up to individual teams and their advisers to arrange for mutually-convenient meeting times. To summarize, the capstone project time commitments are as follows:

  • Capstone Information Session: The month during enrolling in courses for the next semester, students must first note they are planning to enroll in their capstone. They will then receive all options for projects on offer and meet to discuss on a Friday from 5:00-6:30pm in Shepard 375 where groups will be formed. Students who have their own capstone ideas will need to propose them via the one-page problem statement summary the month beforehand (October for Spring project starts and April for Fall project starts). Sample summaries can be found in the capstone section of the curriculum web page. 
  • Capstone Workshops: Fridays for the first four or five weeks of the first course of the sequence (SUS 7501C), from 5:00-6:30pm in Shepard 375. In addition, one mid-year review session late in the semester of SUS 7501C, day/time TBD.
  • Regular individual team meetings with faculty advisers: Approximately once every two weeks for the two-semester duration of project, at times/places to be arranged by individual teams and advisers.
  • Other (recommended but optional): Typically, team members find it useful to meet among themselves at various times throughout the year.

Capstone Advisers

Capstone project advisers are CCNY faculty (full-time or adjunct) with interest in and experience with sustainability-related topics. The adviser is the creator or co-creator of the particular project, and is also the prime audience for capstone student work (and the sole grader of that work). While each faculty adviser and team develops their own working relationship, an adviser is likely to:

  • Meet with students at a regularly scheduled time—on average once every two weeks.
  • Ask for verbal progress reports and plans for future work; ask for written progress reports as need be.
  • Ask for an iterative submission of the final report, in the Capstone Final Report format, beginning about a month before the final written report will be due.
  • Grade the project. Typically, all team members receive the same grade. However, in cases where a adviser finds significantly differing levels of contributions among team members, differing grades are justified.

Assigned Work-Products

  • A mid-year oral presentation, as the first semester (SUS 7501C) nears completion.
  • A mid-year written report, due at the end of the first semester.
  • A  Project Management Log, typically consisting of a cumulative compilation of written progress reports, meeting minutes, etc., due (i) with the mid-year report; and (ii) in completed form, with the final written report.
  • A final written report, in the Capstone Final Report format, due at the end of the year (i.e., in December for those who begin in January, and in May for those who begin in August).
  • A final oral presentation as the project nears completion (i.e., in December for those who begin in January, and in May for those who begin in August).


Advisers are advised to develop their own set of evaluative criteria (‘rubric’), and share and discuss it with students on their team. Students should be proactive about determining the adviser’s rubric. Rubrics will likely include some weighted combination of the following:

  1.  Depth/quality of background research.
  2.  Quality of primary project methodology.
  3.  Spirit of teamwork and collaboration.
  4.  Originality/innovativeness.
  5.  Engagement with the community(-ies).
  6.  Quality of mid-year written report.
  7.  Quality of mid-year oral presentation.
  8.  Quality of final written report.
  9.  Quality of final oral presentation.