The "What" and "Why" of a Sattler CapstoneWritten by Clayton Wagler
Over the last year at Sattler, we students became well acquainted with a specific word: capstone. We had all heard about capstones, but for a number of us, it was just “that project thing you do in your senior year.” It wasn’t until this spring that the amorphous idea of capstones transformed into real products. And now, this summer presents us with the opportunity to present that work. Over the next several weeks, we will feature capstone work from each major.
But let’s first sketch out the what and why of capstones.
What is a capstone?
Capstone projects are the most personalized work we get to do in our four years at Sattler. The project pulls together numerous elements of the student experience: the spiritual growth from discipleship, our vision for post-Sattler life, and the large amount of information learned through our classes, to name a few.
One can imagine how a capstone project might turn out to be a creative but impractical idea on one hand or a practical yet lifeless collection of facts on the other. But at Sattler, it is far from either of those extremes. A capstone project is the practical, cumulative outworking of how God has equipped, inspired, and shaped each student through their experience here to better impact the world around them.
As Jesse Scheumann, founding faculty member and beloved Hebrew professor puts it, “The capstone project is the culmination of your college education and should help launch you into your post-graduation life. The project should be something that you can do now, at the end of your four years of study, that you couldn't have done before coming to Sattler.” The nature of a capstone project at Sattler is such that one cannot undertake it in their first year. The project is designed to come at the end of four years of the entire Sattler experience. The combination of the core classes, late-night conversations, journey groups, electives, and lunch conversations with other students, faculty, and mentors all come together in a Sattler student’s final year, enabling them to execute a successful capstone.
Why do a capstone?
Sattler intends capstone projects to benefit the student by synthesizing their experiences — but not only that. The process itself should also be impactful. That is, the project should contribute to the surrounding world, church, and culture. And in the attempt to generate that contribution, the project should shape the student as well.
In our capstones, we strive to directly benefit the world around us. That might be by creating computing apps to assist Hebrew language learners and beginners in apologetics, interviewing dozens of immigrants about their experiences in American schools and writing their stories, conducting laboratory research to find the causes and treatments of incurable diseases, or aiding the disadvantaged by equipping the church with the necessary tools. The end goal of the capstone is to meaningfully impact the world.
Hopefully, in trying to impact the world through our work, our capstone projects will evoke humility in our hearts as we realize how small we and our projects are on their own. Students who take on capstone projects will no doubt be humbled and shaped in many other ways by their projects.
A few members of the first graduating class volunteered to share these very things — how their capstone impacted the world around them as well as shaped their personal character.
Joy Weiler, Human Biology, Project on Burn Care in Limited Resource Settings
My capstone reflects my desire to impact the medical world and the hurting and broken people in our world. The opportunity to visit and research for the hospital in Pakistan, as well as to work for the clinic in Bangladesh were opportunities that I am so grateful for. … In looking back over the months of researching and pouring over data and compiling information for the clinic, I found myself frustrated with the lack of care that the medical field puts towards developing options that are cost-effective and applicable for low-resource settings. I found myself often praying that God would help me find resources that could be used in the setting of the clinic. I also prayed frequently that God would expand my vision for serving those who have so little access to medical care, and that my burden for the suffering would ever increase.
Austin Lapp, Biblical and Religious Studies, Immigrant and ESL Ministries
As someone with a long-standing interest in cross-cultural ministry, I developed a capstone project seeking to empower the local church to engage local immigrant communities … My work has increased my awareness of God’s work in His world, caused me to mourn humanity’s brokenness, and invigorated a life mission to meaningfully engage immigrants wherever the Lord may call my family. A small part of my capstone included interviews with several individuals who moved to Boston and were converted through an English ministry operated by a local church. It was remarkable to hear how God prepared their hearts to hear the Gospel. Not only did God involved in preparing the soil of their hearts, but he also used the church to water seeds of truth and demonstrate the viability of the Christian faith. The Lord is working in cities right here in North America. The fields lie ripened, waiting for laborers to step into the hot, dusty fields, embracing the blood, sweat, and tears of the harvester’s life. My capstone encouraged me to discern what the Lord is already doing around me and join Him by finding my place in the field.
Seth Howell, Computer Science, Project on Crafting a Hebrew Literacy App for the Old Testament
The biblical Hebrew language has played a distinguishing role in my education at Sattler College. … As I became more literate, I started seeing Scripture through a new lens. I was able to dig up exegetical gems in the Hebrew text that increased my reverence for the Scriptures as God-breathed. … I completed Hebrew exegesis class with Prof. Jesse Scheumann with a new love for Scripture and confidence that the Old Testament writers anticipated Jesus as the suffering servant and the future Davidic king.
I created an app for Hebrew learners. As they complete passages they will be able to save new vocabulary and see their progress, providing the inspiration to continue working through harder texts. Eventually, after acquiring a sufficient vocabulary and understanding of the text, they will be able to start working through entire narratives. Ultimately, I hope that users of my app can encounter God in a new way and have a deeper appreciation of redemption history.
Julie Hoover, Biblical and Religious Studies, Project on Trauma Care in the Church
“Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:8-9). Time and again, the Bible commands those who follow Christ and the Word of God to have compassion for and protect those who are vulnerable. Addressing trauma within the young adult and adolescent community is essential because we have a responsibility to care for and minister to those who are mute. We as Christians can speak into the lives of those who have suffered trauma by giving them an opportunity to share their stories. … If the church takes my project seriously, the Kingdom of God can gain individuals who have perseverance and grit from surviving traumatic childhoods and would also have the ability to go into the world to places that require grit and perseverance. As they walk alongside those who have faced deep trauma, they can uniquely have empathy and understanding for them- encouraging those within hard places to move forward into a reconciliation with God.
Bryant Miller, Human Biology, Biochemistry Research on an Amino Acid related to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Diseases
Gratitude defined my capstone project. … The scientific training I received was phenomenal, and I thoroughly enjoyed my studies and time with my lab mates. I marveled at the sacrifice of so many scientists who have dedicated their lives to improving human wellbeing by developing a better understanding of how our bodies work. I am deeply grateful for all their efforts and the ways they’ve improved my life. The goodness of God touched me in so many small ways too numerous to explain.
Our bodies are awesomely complex. … Protein regulatory networks are one small piece of the puzzle, yet the field is vast. … Despite all our efforts, we’ve barely scratched the surface of the many protein-protein interactions that are necessary for us to live. Every time I consider the finely tuned complexity of the human proteome, I’m struck by the genius of the Creator.
Lois Friesen, History, Project on Faith-Based Refugee Resettlement Organizations
Given the recent waves of displaced and migrating people, it is important that the church attend to their concerns. … 1 in 59 people are displaced in the world. The next generation faces a huge hurdle to work towards safety and stability, and the church should be active in promoting good for these masses as a demonstration of the love of Christ.
So, then, a capstone is both the result and culmination of what God has done in each student's life during their time at Sattler. It brings together Sattler's vision: "to provide an education that instructs the mind, discipleship that shapes the soul, and inspiration that inflames the heart." The capstone project teaches us how to bridge the gap between what we have learned and making an impact on the world. Now, over the next several weeks we will share in more detail what different students did for their capstones. Hopefully, their work can inspire you to utilize what God has given you.