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ESS Capstone 2016 tackles a wide range of environmental issues for a sustainable Silicon Valley

Our ESS Capstone course is a problem-based project-oriented course for seniors. It requires students to work in collaborative teams to work on a current Bay Area sustainability issue. Each team was assigned a community partner for whom to conduct original research and prepare a poster and final report. This year’s capstone course, taught by Stephanie Hughes and Chris Bacon, featured a great set of projects with local stakeholders. The topics included a study on the economic attractiveness of urban agriculture with the non-profit Garden 2 Table, a study on wildlife migration corridors in Coyote Valley, and a study on green space access and social equity (both with the Open Space Authority) a study on disposable food ware reduction with Santa Clara Businesses, a study on EV charging stations in Santa Clara with Silicon Valley Power, a study on regulatory recommendations on greywater disposal, a study on urban reforestation on school properties with Our City Forests, a geospatial analysis of matching food assistant need with availability with Second Harvest Food Bank, a study of repurposing food waste with the organization Stop Waste, a study making recommendations for sustainable transport infrastructure with the Silicon Valley Biking Coalition, and two studies looking into an expansion of bus rapid transit and equity in transit with the organization Transform. The culmination of Capstone was the evening poster session at the end of winter term to ESS faculty and community stakeholders.

Student perspective: Excitement for Capstone Poster Presentation night!

By Jordan Webster ’16

It was the day of the ESS Senior Capstone Poster Session, an evening we had been anxiously anticipating for several months. The exhibition hall was filled with red linen table cloths, easels with crisp white posters, and dapper young men and women. The delicious aromas of Falafel’s Drive-In wafted into the lobby of Kennedy Commons, warmly greeting our guests.

I was grateful that I attended the prsentation last year and knew the room would be packed with people who were genuinely interested to learn about the projects the seniors had produced over the quarter. This boosted my confidence; this wasn’t a competition, but an opportunity to own and proudly present my findings, analysis, and recommendations.

Once I’d circumnavigated the room, it was evident that some groups had reached complete conclusions, while other projects were left with rejected hypotheses or unanswered questions. Even some of our most experienced student researchers found themselves in unknown territory after finishing their analysis. However, these unexpected results and time constraints are crucial to our professional development. All teams learned the valuable skills of communicating with clients and peers, analyzing data, interviewing stakeholders, and ultimately creating meaningful deliverables on their findings. This time was well spent, as our projects were both relevant and beneficial to our local communities. The wildlife corridor, urban green space, and Second Harvest Food Bank projects all stood out to me in their stellar assessments of how to make Santa Clara County a more active, healthy and biodiverse community.

Speaking for the senior class, I believe that all of our recommendations will help future seniors to be able to participate in an even more engaging and fulfilling Capstone experience. There is no doubt that each one of us took something valuable from our Senior Capstone, and we recognize and respect all the hard work it took to set up such a course. We would all like to thank Professor Bacon and Professor Hughes again for mentoring us through some of the most challenging situations and questions we have had to face in our college careers. We are all that much more prepared for our lives ahead, and we boldly go forth with fond memories of our education at Santa Clara University.

Students proudly presenting their capstone projects to faculty and community stakeholders.