Santa Clara University


Senior Thesis & Capstone

2015–2016 Thesis and Capstone

All Communication majors complete a senior thesis or capstone course in their senior year. 

Thesis students complete substantial papers based on their original research. 

Capstone students make films, write feature-length magazine articles, or create public relations materials for a real-world client.  Students emerge from thesis or capstone with an example of their best work, suitable for including in applications for jobs and graduate school

Prerequisite Information

All students enrolled in any section of thesis/capstone must complete the following lower division required courses before taking thesis/capstone:  
    COMM 1 (Introduction to Interpersonal Communication)
    COMM 2 (Introduction to Media Studies) or 2GL (Introduction to Global Media Studies)
    COMM 12 (Technology & Communication)
    COMM 20 (Public Speaking)
    COMM 30 (Introduction to Digital Filmmaking)
    COMM 40 (Introduction to Journalism) or 40 EL (Introduction to Journalism- Experiential Learning)

•    There are additional prerequisites for each thesis/capstone section. It is your responsibility to ensure that you have completed them before the quarter in which you plan to take thesis/capstone.  Enrolling in a prerequisite during the same quarter as thesis/capstone doesn’t count.
•    Acceptance into any thesis/capstone section is contingent upon the student successfully completing all prerequisites prior to the quarter in which the student is enrolled in thesis/capstone.  A student who drops or fails a prerequisite will not be eligible to take thesis/capstone and will forfeit their slot in a thesis/capstone section.
•    Please plan accordingly and give yourself enough time to complete these courses

Fall 2015

Global Media Brands: Economic, Cultural, and Political Perspectives

Rohit Chopra

This senior thesis seminar examines global media brands, broadly defined, in terms of their cultural, economic, and political impact. The course focuses on (a) media companies, such as ESPN and Facebook, as well as companies such as Nike and Levis, which deal with other consumer products, but have sophisticated global media strategies; (b) non-profits such as Amnesty which run very effective global media campaigns; (c) global celebrity figures such as Angelina Jolie and George Clooney who are powerful personal brands. The key idea informing the course is that all successful brands are in a sense media brands. We will also look critically at the social and political implications of the central role of media brands as important interlocutors in matters of identity, power relations, cultural taste, in addition to discussing their economic impact.


• All COMM lower division requirements (COMM 1, 2/2GL, 12, 20, 30 and 40/40EL)


• COMM 111


Winter 2016 

New Media and Global Cultures

Sreela Sarkar

In the last two decades, new media technologies have been celebrated for ushering in a “global village.” This course focuses on how “new media” such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs, cell phones etc. produce and represent global cultures. Our readings and discussions will challenge “culture” as a fixed, monolithic identity and understand new media technologies as embedded in constant processes of contestation and negotiation. Drawing from contemporary discussions, we will cover topics on new media and global cultures such as “hybrid”/convergent cultures, immigration, social movements, changing conceptions of work and labor, and “entrepreneurial culture.” Students will conduct original research that will culminate in a research paper and presentation.


• All COMM lower division requirements (COMM 1, 2/2GL, 12, 20, 30 and 40/40EL)

• COMM 111

• At least one COMM A class

Assignments Structure:

Theoretical Concepts Paper

Literature Survey


Research Paper (including topic, abstract, complete, initial version and revised, final version)


The Science of Happiness


When we get what we wanted, why doesn't that always make us happy? Our relationships are embedded in the pursuit or loss of happiness. Topics include the transient nature of happiness, our brain’s biological happiness system, the effects of tragic or fortunate events, mental blind spots, compassion, prosocial behavior, gratitude, flourishing, and the pursuit of pleasure. We will look at how happiness is affected by winning or by losing, as well as why predicting our future happiness (when we choose mates, careers, or material acquisitions) is flawed. Students will gain an understanding of what might (or might not) bring them and those they care about sustained happiness—for decisions they will be making throughout their lives.

This senior seminar will extend the interdisciplinary review of research and theories from COMM 100A. Students will select one interpersonal issue of interest to them in which to apply our new readings, synthesizing and extending what is known about happiness to explain the challenges and issues within that social issue. No partner is needed. Final projects involve individual work, but other assignments will involve working in small teams that will teach an outside class or group about research from the emerging scholarship in the Science of Happiness and demonstrate how it explains specific issues in our relationships.


• All COMM lower division requirements (COMM 1, 2/2GL, 12, 20, 30 and 40/40EL)

• COMM 110 (Quantitative Research Methods) or COMM 111/111G (Qualitative Research Methods)

• COMM 100A (The Science of Happiness)


Spring 2016

 Digital Filmmaking Capstone

Michael Whalen

 The goal of the Digital Filmmaking Capstone is to produce quality short films in any of the following genres: documentary, fiction, poetic, experimental, or any combination of these modes of storytelling. Students work in small production groups of 2-3 to produce 15-minute films, ideally from scripts that have been written in COMM 130B.

In addition to the film projects, each student is required to write an essay outlining his/her overall vision as a filmmaker and how this vision helped frame their Capstone project. The essay will draw on theories and concepts such as mise-en-scene, montage, auteur theory, the long take, film reflexivity, defamiliarization, cinema verite, and observational documentary to link the student’s practical experience to the various theoretical concepts of filmmaking.


•    All COMM lower division requirements (COMM 1, 2/2GL, 12, 20, 30 and 40/40EL)

•    COMM 130B (Global Screenwriting)

•    Two of the film/television COMM List B courses from among the following:

    131B (Short Fiction Production)

    132B (Short Documentary Production)

    133B (Expanded Cinema)

    134B (Master Shot/Studio Production)

•    One of the following advanced COMM courses related to film and television:

    COMM 121A (Diversity and Media)

    COMM 123A (Media and Youth)

    COMM 125A (Media Audience Studies)

    COMM 136A (Genre, Auteur & Narrative Strategies)

    COMM 137A (Film History/Theory)

    COMM 138A (Television History/Theory)

    COMM 139A (Global Documentary)

    COMM 162B (Visual Cultural Communication)

    COMM 187A (Cinema in the Age of Globalization)

    COMM 171A (Business of Media)

    COMM 188A (The Fantastic in Film and Literature)


Journalism Capstone

Barbara Kelley

The goal of the journalism capstone project is to produce a 3500-word magazine piece of publishable quality on a significant community issue. Students are encouraged to view their final project as a portfolio piece they can use as evidence of superior writing/reporting ability when applying for graduate school, internships or media-related jobs. Students will submit a written story proposal, including a preliminary list of sources and projected reporting strategy; perform a comprehensive literature search; and thoroughly research the story via interviews, archival research, and first-hand observation.  Students will also edit their peers’ work throughout the quarter, participate in class discussions, and submit multiple drafts of the final project.

In addition to the finished magazine piece, students will write a reflection noting how previous journalism courses and class discussions, Communication and Core courses, and university experiences have all combined to inform their ability to complete their project.  In the reflection, students will consider both ethics and audience.

Note: The pre-requisites for a journalism capstone do NOT require students to complete additional courses to graduate; students simply need to fulfill upper division COMM requirements in part by taking two List B journalism courses and one List A course related to journalism, media studies or multi-cultural communication.


• All COMM lower division requirements (COMM 1, 2/2GL, 12, 20, 30 and 40/40EL)

•     COMM 141B (Advanced Journalism)

•     At least one additional journalism List B course prior to Spring quarter.  Comm 146 (Magazine Journalism) is recommended, but not required.

•   At least one A-list communication course related to journalism or the media, which may be taken concurrently with Capstone.


Public Relations Capstone

Buford Barr

Public Relations Capstone focuses on the application of communication, business, and core academic concepts and theories to the practice of business communications, including the basic communication skills, planning/execution process, and functions that compose public relations within a corporate, business entity or agency.  Topics include integrated marketing communications, branding, marketing, mainstream media, and social/digital media.  Business ethics and social responsibility are heavily emphasized.

The Capstone Project is to develop a public relations plan for an actual organization in a real business situation or to implement an existing PR plan. Working as a PR agency, students will develop a complete PR plan book designed to achieve the client's corporate and marketing objectives, the PR tactics for outbound and inbound communication and a formal presentation of the plan to the client and his/her staff.  The focus is on research, creative problem solving, critical thinking, planning, project management, accountability and ethics.  (5 units)


•    All COMM lower division requirements (COMM 1, 2/2GL, 12, 20, 30 and 40/40EL)

•    COMM 110 or 111 or 111G

•    COMM 150B (Public Relations Theories and Principles)

•    COMM 152B (Public Relations Strategies and Practices)


Senior Seminar in Organizational Communication

Justin P. Boren

Humans have an inherent need to organize into collectives in an attempt to accomplish a common goal. In doing so, the collective constitutes an organization through the use of communication. In this course, we will take an in-depth exploration of organizations through the lens of communication. Specifically, we will explore how and why organizations are constituted, the benefits and pitfalls of organizing, and the impact of the organization on its direct and indirect stakeholders. We will read and discuss original research on organizational theory, development, and behavior. We will also explore contemporary organizational communication topics, including some or all of the following: 

    Organizational Culture
    Gender, Sexuality, and Ethnicity in Organizations
    Stress, Burnout, and Social Support
    Work and Life Engagement/Interaction/Interface
    Emotion Labor
    Bullying and Mobbing
    Teams and Networks
    Bargaining and Negotiation
    Conflict Management and Organizational Dialogue
    Training and Development for Organizations
    Positive Organizational Communication
    Qualitative and Quantitative organizational communication research methods

As a class, we engage in these research topics through extensive discussion, reflection, and critique. Students will be expected to read original research articles. Students will work in pairs (or alone) to design and implement a qualitative or quantitative data-driven research paper on organizational communication. Students will present their findings to a larger audience at the end of the quarter.

Prerequisites (all of the following are required before the start of class):

• All COMM lower division requirements (COMM 1, 2/2GL, 12, 20, 30 and 40/40EL)

    COMM 110 (Quantitative Research Methods)

    COMM 111 (Qualitative Research Methods) or COMM 111G (Feminist Research Methods)

    COMM 151A (Organizational Communication)