Capstone Festival

Thursday, May 9, 2019

The annual Mary Baldwin University Capstone Festival celebrates the scholarly and creative achievements of graduating MBU seniors. All students, faculty, staff, and the greater Staunton community are invited to attend.

Questions? Please email

The Capstone Festival gives outstanding seniors an opportunity to present their scholarly and artistic works to the wider campus community and the public. Students may be nominated for their senior projects, honors projects, or special sponsored projects (such as VFIC Summer Science Award, Russell Scholar). All nominations must be made by Mary Baldwin faculty. The annual nomination deadline is March 29, and all projects completed after the previous year’s Festival are eligible.

2018 Capstone Awardees

2018 Awardees

The Capstone Festival is a collaborative effort of university faculty in partnership with the Mary Baldwin University Advisory Board of Visitors (ABV). The ABV is comprised of accomplished Mary Baldwin alumni and industry/business leaders from geographically and professionally diverse market sectors. Its members are advocates and resources for Mary Baldwin—its faculty, staff and students and serve as key ambassadors for the university by taking the relevancy of Mary Baldwin to their own community and region. For more information, go to





The first annual Capstone Festival took place on May 3, 2006, as a reinstatement of a Commencement tradition from the earliest days of Augusta Female Seminary, when a Capstone Festival of sorts existed:

“All final examinations were held in public and members of the board of trustees and the townspeople attended to view students parse sentences, do intricate math problems, and recite soliloquies,” writes Professor Emerita of History Patricia H. Menk in her book To Live in Time; The Sesquicentennial History of Mary Baldwin University 1842-1992.

By the late 1800s, the practice of public recitations had disappeared.

Through our new tradition, a select group of seniors, nominated by faculty, present their senior, honors, and special projects to the Mary Baldwin community and the general public.  The high quality and breadth of research, scholarship, and creative activities on display is a testament to the legacy of those earlier years and a celebration of our future.


What is the Capstone Festival?
The Festival is an annual showcase of the best senior projects, honors theses, and special research projects completed by undergraduate Mary Baldwin University students during the preceding academic year. The inaugural Capstone Festival was held in 2006 and revives a tradition from the early years of Augusta Female Seminary, when “commencement” involved public oral presentations and contests.

The Festival provides an opportunity for students, faculty members, families, and members of the community to learn about original work done in all disciplines. For nominees, it is a chance to celebrate their achievement and communicate their results to a broader audience.

When is the Capstone Festival?
The Festival is held on a Thursday during May Term. It begins with a short opening ceremony in the early afternoon. Sessions take place throughout the afternoon, and the Festival concludes with a celebration ceremony and reception in the early evening.

How can I be nominated for the Capstone Festival?
Nominations must be made by Mary Baldwin University faculty members. Some departments decide collectively on which majors to nominate and others leave it up to individual faculty. After a faculty member notifies you that you are being nominated, you should work with him or her to make sure that you submit the completed nomination form by the specified deadline (your faculty nominator will have information about the nomination process and deadline).

How many people participate in the Festival?
In recent years, about 30 students have presented their work during the Capstone Festival, representing less than a quarter of the graduating class.

I’ve been nominated. Do I have to participate?
Participation is entirely voluntary, but only nominees who participate will have the chance to earn specials awards and recognitions.

I’m going to be studying abroad during May Term. May I still participate?
If you will be studying abroad on an MBU May Term or other approved program, you may have information about you and your project listed in the Capstone Festival brochure, with potential to share your project virtually through a slideshow. Be sure the faculty member who nominates you indicates that you’ll be abroad in May and that you are interested in participating virtually.

Can my friends and family attend and see my presentation?
Definitely! Family members and friends (on campus or otherwise) are strongly encouraged to attend the sessions and the celebration ceremony.

I’d like to participate, but I didn’t get the results I expected from my project. What should I do?
Sometimes we learn the most from experiments that go awry. Presentations in such cases may focus on background information, methodology, and the discoveries that you did make. The point is to help your audience become better informed about an area of inquiry that you have confronted first hand.

I have class the afternoon of the Capstone Festival. Will it be possible for me to participate?
Faculty members are generally very supportive of Capstone presenters. Some instructors cancel classes on Festival day so that all of their students may attend. Although they are not required to do so, instructors have been requested to give Capstone presenters an excused absence for the day and give them an opportunity to complete any missed work. Please talk to your May Term professor as soon as possible to confirm your arrangements.

What if I’ve been nominated for more than one project?
You must select one project to present; however, abstracts for all nominated projects may be included in the Festival program.

What presentation category should I choose?
Your nominator will recommend a presentation category that he or she thinks will fit your project, but you are free to choose any appropriate category. The presentation categories are: 1. Paper Presentation; 2. Multimedia-supported Presentation; 3. Poster Presentation; 4. Reading or Performance; 4. Visual or Audio-Visual Creation Presentation.

Although reading/performance is the most obvious choice for music, theatre, or creative writing projects, you may also chose to adapt material from other disciplines into a performance presentation. Visual or audio-visual presentations are suitable for art and film projects. Most projects in the sciences, humanities or social sciences can be presented as a paper presentation (a “delivered” paper), a multimedia-supported presentation, or a poster presentation. Posters are more common in the sciences and papers in the humanities.

Is a Capstone presentation the same as a senior project presentation?
No. The Festival is interdisciplinary, which means that students from all majors present together during each session, and many people attending will have little background in your project area. This means that your presentation should be geared toward a lay audience rather your original faculty audience.

How is the festival organized?
The festival is organized in separate concurrent sessions. We try to find a loose theme to link the presentations in each session. Presenters are required to stay for the entire session to which they are assigned and are encouraged to attend other sessions throughout the afternoon.

Are awards given? What are the criteria?
A team of three judges will evaluate each session. A number of special awards will be made at the concluding Celebration, but you should remember that it is a significant achievement to be nominated for and participate in the Festival. Presenters will be judged on the overall merit of the project as well as how well they condense and communicate their key concepts to a lay audience. This is an interdisciplinary festival, and while projects should conform to a style consistent with the main presentation format in a particular discipline, they should also be accessible to an educated audience with little or no specific background in the discipline. The judging team will include people who are not knowledgeable about your particular field, and you will be evaluated on how well you are able to make your project understandable to this type of educated non-specialist audience.

If I choose the delivered paper category, what will I do?
Delivered paper presenters stand in front of the audience and either read a shortened version of their longer work or summarize their project in lecture style. Each person is allowed ten minutes for the presentation plus five minutes for questions. Papers in the humanities are generally at least partly memorized, but are more often read rather than being given as a fully extemporaneous lecture, especially if specific language and quotations are critical to interpretation.

If I choose the multimedia-supported category, what will I do?
Multimedia-supported presentations are similar to delivered paper presentations. Presentations in the social sciences and sciences are often done extemporaneously, using PowerPoint to illustrate key results and concepts. Humanities presentations may also use PowerPoint or other multimedia aids to illustrate key concepts. Again, allow ten minutes for the presentation plus five minutes for questions.

If I choose the poster category, what will I do?
Poster presenters construct a visual representation of their project on a large sheet of poster paper (see guidelines for size requirements, etc.). The poster will be displayed in Hunt West throughout the day of the Festival. If you are a poster presenter, you will participate in both a closed session, when members of the judging team will visit your poster at a pre-designated time, and an open session, during which you will stand near your poster and answer questions from students, faculty, staff, and community members. You should be prepared to provide a five- to seven-minute overview of your project while using the visual materials on your poster as a guide. Then be prepared to answer questions. Your poster should also make sense to someone reading it even if you are not present to answer questions.

If I choose the visual/audio-visual category, what will I do?
The visual/audio-visual sessions feature a completed work, such as a painting, film, or graphic design, in whole or in part. Allow ten minutes for presenting your work plus five minutes for questions. Presenters should provide an introduction to the work, give an opportunity for viewing, and answer questions from the audience and judges. For example, a documentary film presenter might 1) give a five-minute introduction describing a key issue she explored, a technical problem she faced, her motivations and intentions for creating the work, and some conclusions about the subject; 2) show a five-minute clip from the film; and 3) allow five minutes for questions from the audience and judges.

If I choose the reading/ performance category, what will I do?
As in the visual/audio-visual sessions, performance presenters give an introduction to the work, present the work or selections from a longer work, and then answer questions from audience and judges. Reading and performance presenters may have up to twenty minutes, including the introduction and question period.

Can I do a less formal presentation? Can a paper session involve audience interaction?
Creativity is encouraged! Discuss with your project advisor what best fits your project and personal style. You should also feel free to contact the Festival coordinators listed below if you have questions.

Do I need to bring my original paper to the Festival? Should I bring copies of my slides or other handouts?
You may bring one-page handouts for audience members, and this may be particularly helpful if you have tables of data, quotations, or other key information that you want audience members to be able to refer to throughout your presentation. In addition, we suggest that you bring about copies of your slides, the short version of your paper, and/or a project summary to the evening reception, with your contact information to facilitate networking with alumni and potential employers.

Who are the judges?
Judges include MBU faculty and staff members, members of the Advisory Board of Visitors (ABV) and outside judges. Faculty judges will not judge their advisees’ presentations.

What help is available for me to prepare my presentation?
Workshops will be held for nominees, providing general information about the Festival as well as specific advice for the category in which you will be presenting. You will be informed about the dates and times of those workshops when you are nominated.

In addition, you should ask your faculty and/or project advisor to help you prepare for the Capstone Festival by discussing techniques for adapting your material for your presentation category and for an audience of laypeople. Also ask him or her to review your materials well before the day of the Festival. Practice your presentation in front of your friends. And don’t forget to ask your advisor or someone else to proofread anything that will be shown or distributed to the audience. A fresh pair of eyes is always helpful!

Finally, members of the University’s Advisory Board of Visitors (ABV) will host an informal, voluntary practice session on an evening a few days before the Festival. Advance registration is required.

You and/or your project advisor should also feel free to contact the members of the Capstone Coordinating Committee by emailing


The Capstone Festival is supported by the Advisory Board of Visitors, the Office of Undergraduate Research and High Impact Practices, and the Global Honors Scholars Program. It is made possible through the generous sponsorship of corporate and community partners. If you are interested in sponsorship opportunities in support of the 2019 festival, please email


Hershey’s Chocolate of Virginia


McKee Foods Corporation


Mr. Chuck Henck


City of Staunton
Cynthia Burnett and Staunton City Schools
 Daikin Applied
The Heifetz International Music Institute


Dr. Leigh Frame, MBC RCW ’06