Students Prepare for the Future Through Culminating Experiences

RIC nursing student Kathryn Lavall completed an honors thesis as part of her senior culminating experience.

RIC nursing student Kathryn Lavall completed an honors thesis as part of her senior culminating experience.


Designed to challenge, refine and enhance their undergraduate training, "culminating experiences" prepare RIC seniors for the transition from student to educated graduate.

“Through these final learning experiences, our students synthesize their prior learning, draw on and apply their knowledge and skills in new contexts and settings and begin to make lifelong learning a habit of mind,” said Vice President for Academic Affairs Ron Pitt.

Pitt added, “These experiences can take various forms, from a senior seminar to a clinical experience, professional internship or student teaching.”

In the Public/Community Health Nursing course this spring, student Kathryn Lavall gained valuable insight into a nurse’s professional life and career potential researching calorie labeling in restaurants as a tool to lower obesity rates.

Lavall's group was able to work with state Rep. Joy Hearn, who sponsored a bill to have Rhode Island restaurants  include calories and ingredients on their menus. Lavall also worked wtih the R.I. Department of Health and community leaders to examine epidemiology and on evidence-based research.

“This experience really improved my awareness of how nurses can impact health care policy and how that process works,” Lavall said. “It also gave me encouragement to pursue public health policy change in the future.

The Public/Community Nursing Course requires that students choose a pressing public health issue and present recommendations as to how nurses can impact that particular issue. It is one-half of the required nursing capstone experience. Students also take Transition to Professional Nursing, a clinical and leadership development seminar.

This two-course requirement is just one example of how culminating experiences at RIC are developed to compliment and advance knowledge and skills students have gained during their undergraduate education. Others include:

  •   Internship and clinical preparation:

o   Social work and community health and wellness majors complete a 480-hour immersion-based internship in their chosen field.

o   Teacher candidates complete a semester-long student teaching experience. Teacher candidates seeking certification in elementary education and special education complete a yearlong teacher residency.

  •  Research-based training:

o   Secondary education majors with a history concentration present a research paper on an American social movement to their seminar class where they receive and give written and verbal critiques.

o   Psychology majors develop research projects, including result analysis and an American Psychology Association-format paper, through a set of advanced research lab courses.

  •  Seminar courses:

o   Justice Studies majors complete a seminar that challenges their understanding of theory, research, policy and ethics in criminal justice settings by developing a real-world grant proposal for a Rhode Island justice agency. 

o   Gender and Women’s Studies majors take the Seminar on Race, Class and Gender course that includes global analysis of how structural and systemic power, oppression and privilege impacts identity and society.

  •  Simulated professional experiences:  

o   Marketing and management majors compete in managing a real company and its products in a marketplace against other teams. In spring 2014, students in Assistant Professor of Management and Marketing Jiyun Wu’s seminar in strategic management placed in the 99th percentile in the world for a simulation in which they competed against hundreds of schools. 

o   Communication majors can choose to produce a senior portfolio using a workflow model to map out stages of the production process, a project planning method used in professional settings.

  •   Performance evaluation:

o   Students pursuing a minor in jazz studies perform on campus as part of the required jazz combo course.

o   Studio art majors undergo reviews at the end of their last three semesters, write an artist’s statement and complete Art 400, which covers the artist’s relationship with museums and galleries.

  •   Beyond meeting degree requirements, many RIC students elect to engage challenging research projects and other initiatives that supplement their undergraduate training:

o   The Anthropology Department reports that many of their students choose to do a non-required internship at a local historical organization. 

o   Other students, including Lavall, also complete an honors thesis, a requirement to graduate with departmental honors. These students display their work in a poster session for the campus community at the end of the spring semester.