For the University of Washington’s undergraduate education students, senior year is an in-depth opportunity to apply knowledge from all of their previous coursework and practice their skills in a community setting.

Through their capstone internships, more than 200 education majors partnered during the 2019-20 academic year with dozens of community-based organizations — from schools to government and non-profits. In the process, students gained real-world experience while supporting the work of partner organizations.

In a series of audio reflections, several College of Education students graduating with their undergraduate degrees this month describe their capstones and how the experiences impacted them.

“The capstone experience is a significant aspect of the Early Childhood and Family Studies program, providing students with direct experience in working with and on behalf of children and families, seeing the knowledge and issues we discuss in coursework 'come alive' in the community,” said Senior Lecturer Mary Clevenger-Bright. “It also provides a way for them to see the many career roles and pathways that professionals have in this interdisciplinary field, allowing them insight in considering their own career interests.” 

Terri Wardrop, who teaches in the College’s Early Care and Education online bachelor’s completion program, said that until the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 47 students in her capstone courses were working in a variety of early childhood settings, including Head Start, Montessori and Waldorf programs, private home centers and more.

“I have had students refer to their capstone experience as a life-changing event,” Wardrop said. “They have gone on to specialize in dual language programs, entered graduate school when that hadn’t been in the picture before, or shifted to a different field like social work — all based on their capstone experience.”

The collective community impact of the capstone experience is substantial. Nubia Lopez, community partner liaison for the Education, Communities and Organizations program said the 81 majors who completed their capstones this year work at 59 different organizations, including non-profits, PK-12 schools, local government agencies and various departments at the UW. Students intern approximately 15 hours per week with their partner organization in addition to attending a weekly capstone seminar.

“Applied learning is essential for comprehensive understanding and skill building,” said Teaching Associate Kimberly Mitchell. “Combining these opportunities to help our students hit the ground running in their careers, while also being of service, is a great illustration of the College's focus on community partnership.”


Dustin Wunderlich, Director of Marketing and Communications