CMN 396

Capstone Seminar in Communication

Summer 2008


Dr. Daniel Makagon                                                              

Office: SAC 596

Office Hours: Tuesday 9:00-9:30 PM

Phone: (773) 325-7376


home page:                    


Course Description


This course fulfills your senior year requirement of the Liberal Studies Core. It is taught by the College of Communication for its majors, but you will receive Liberal Studies credit rather than Communication credit. The purpose of this course is to provide a transition between undergraduate education and either the world of work or movement into a professional or graduate program and to link communication skills, knowledge, and competencies with liberal arts and sciences as you contemplate major issues facing our society. Students will be asked to reflect upon these issues, drawing from not only the readings but also an undergraduate education at DePaul, both in liberal arts and the major. Students will select the topics/themes for the second half of the quarter.


Course Objectives


This course is designed to allow students to reflect on the learning derived from their undergraduate education (liberal studies, major, and minor) in order to reach theory-based conclusions about self-identity, social relationships, liberal education, and future directions. Thinking abilities (analysis, synthesis, critical thinking, and evaluation), discussion abilities, written competencies, interdisciplinary connections, disciplinary learning, ethical issues, and theoretical applications also serve as underpinnings to both course content and pedagogy.


The objectives are as follows:


1. Students will identify sources that were meaningful in their educational formation, and dialogue with others about the impact and significance of these sources, including multicultural perspectives.


2. Students will utilize skills in close reading, analysis, critical thinking, writing, and small group communication in a senior experience that nurtures cross-disciplinary appreciation, and independent synthesis.


3. Students will structure and complete a learning activity deemed personally significant, and thereby, clarify the connection between course studies, critical and creative thinking, and life applications.


4. Students will demonstrate presentational competencies through this capstone project.



Course Organization


This course is a seminar in which we all read selected materials and discuss them and their relevance to our lives. For discussion to be rich and fruitful, it is imperative that we read the assignments carefully and contemplate questions and comments about them. You also should come to class prepared not only to engage the readings fully but also to make connections among readings from week to week and to move beyond the readings to your previous coursework, your lives, experiences, hopes, and dreams. During the first three sessions we will cover instructor chosen readings and activities to engage the topics. The fourth and fifth sessions will be used for individual appointments with the instructor, the outcome of which is an accepted proposal for your senior project. The sixth session will cover instructor chosen readings and activities. After session six, we move into the portion of the course that is student driven. For the next three weeks (sessions 7, 8, and 9), while you concentrate on finishing your senior project, we will cover theme-driven, student-selected readings and media events that allow you to share meaningful materials with one another while we continue the seminar. Students will be responsible for identifying themes and working in groups to select materials for those three weeks. Each theme-related group will plan the class for the night of their topic and lead the activities and discussions.


Required Readings


All course readings are available on-line. Download and print the files.


Most readings will not be available until we begin group sessions. These readings will include all of the materials from the three student groups for sessions 7, 8 and 9 of the quarter.


You are required to complete the reading assignments before you attend class. This will lead to more fruitful discussion.




There are four graded aspects to this course, which are weighted as follows:


Participation                                                                             10%

Quizzes                                                                                     15%

Course Leadership (Group Presentation)                                35%

Senior Project     (6-8 pages)                                                    40%




Quizzes will be held at various times throughout the quarter on the readings. When group presentations occur, each group will create a quiz on their readings. Groups will provide a range of multiple-choice questions. I will select the questions from each groupÕs suggested list.

Course Leadership (Group Presentation)


Each student will join one of three groups who will be responsible for a class session in the second half of the quarter. Students will select the three topics to be covered and join one group during the first class meeting. Groups may not divide up a huge topic and have six or seven different presenters (i.e., have everyone do their own thing). Rather, the class sessions should be thematic and smooth.


The responsibilities of the group will be to plan the class sessions:


1.       Your group will select the readings (use the page counts for my assigned readings as a guide) and any other materials or activities to be used that evening. All materials that need to be scanned for the class must be delivered to me by August 7th. Originals need to be single-sided, legible, and clean (not underlined and marked up). (If you are scanning your own materials, make sure the scans are of clean copies and you scan in black and white—not grayscale or in color unless it is impossible to read B/W—at 300 DPI. Email me the scans so I can put them in the folder.)


2.       Confirm that students did the readings by developing a quiz for the class to take (and provide me with a key for the quiz with which to grade it). Your quiz should contain multiple choice questions, and you should provide me with more questions than will be used. I will select which questions will be on the quiz and will Xerox the quiz for the class.


3.       Create and lead the discussions and/or exercises appropriate to the topic. Here the team has two primary objectives: (1) to stimulate class discussion in such a way that many students participate, and (2) to direct the discussion in such a way that students learn how the readings are tied together and linked to the topic at hand. (NOTE: Do not simply lecture about the material to the class.)


4.       Evaluate yourself and people within your group. My own and your classmatesÕ evaluations of the group presentation will be added to the grades you generate.


NOTE: Each group has the right to kick out a non-participating member. Any member kicked out of their group automatically loses the points for this group project (35% of your total grade). The group should exercise EVERY means possible for getting the group member to do his/her part. In the event that the individual still does not participate, the group should speak with me before kicking out the member.


I am more than happy to work with your groups if you would like my input.


5.       You will turn in a written agenda and analysis of the readings. Type a 3-5 page (double-spaced) report. Analysis: Do not simply summarize the reading materials, but indicate why you chose them (connections to liberal studies, communication, and the topic) and provide your own critical thinking and in-depth analysis of the readings. Agenda: Create an agenda for leading the class discussion. Be specific in describing what you will say to the class, the questions you will ask, and your procedures for conducting any activities. (NOTE: Do not just list what you plan to do; instead, provide a rationale for each step of your groupÕs presentation.)


Grades are based on the following percentages: My evaluation of your presentation (50%), My evaluation of your written agenda (30%), peer evaluations (10%), class evaluations (10%).


Senior Project

This course provides the opportunity for you to critically examine your desired career choice through textual research and qualitative fieldwork (e.g., interviews with people in your chosen area and observation). You should submit a brief proposal (2-3 pages) during the third session of the quarter (July 29). Your proposal should clearly state what you intend to do, what your sources and data are, and general timeline for completion. This should be written in the form of an essay, not written as an outline. I will meet with each student during sessions 4 and 5 to discuss proposals.


Your final 6-8 page paper should critically examine your career choice. You should build a case that argues for what it takes to succeed in your area. Additionally, you should address how a liberal arts-based communication education is connected to these goals. Your support material should come from published research, trade publications, and interviews (either in person, on the phone, or via email). Cite all sources. I expect at least 3 interview citations and at least 7 reputable published sources. I should be clear that this is a critical examination of the career itself, not an autobiographical tale. The point is to understand the connection between a formal education and a way of life.


This project will be graded in two parts: proposal = 5% and final paper = 35%.


Writing Guidelines


All papers must be typed, double-spaced throughout the entire essay, and use a consistent style (e.g., Chicago, MLA, or APA). Use one-inch margins and 12-point font. Please include a title page that contains your name, the date, the assignment, and any other information you feel compelled to include. I do not accept electronic copies. Never slide papers under my door and never leave papers on the file cabinets next to my office. Always hand papers to me or leave them in my mailbox. Also, see the syllabus addendum (available in the folder that contains pdfs for this class) for a description of my grading policies and expectations as well as further details about written assignments.


Contact or visit the Writing Center for assistance with your writing: Lincoln Park at 802 W. Belden, 150 McGaw Hall, 773-325-4272. The Loop at 25 E. Jackson, 1620 Lewis Center, 312-362-6726.


Course Policies


Attendance and Active Participation are expected and required. Participation grades are factored by considering how often you participate in class discussion and how that discussion advances our overall learning (i.e., I will consider how your questions help us understand difficult passages, how your contributions further discussion rather than hinder discussion, how your comments foster lively debate, how your participation grows from an engagement with the reading and college experience rather than functioning to advance an autobiographical tale only). If you miss very few classes and your participation level is excellent, you can expect an "A" for this portion of your grade. If you miss very few classes and your participation level is above average (i.e., you participate every other class rather than every class session), you can expect a "B" for this portion of your grade. If you miss very few classes and your participation level is average, you can expect a "C" for this portion of your grade. If you miss the most possible classes you can miss without failing the class and your participation level is average, you can expect a "D" for this portion of your grade.


Promptness is expected as a general rule. If you are consistently late to class, your grade will be negatively affected.


You are allowed one unexcused absence in this class, and two absences if one of those is excused (e.g., you have documentation about a medical illness, family emergency, legal issue/civic responsibility, or are missing because of an official DePaul function). If you miss more than two class sessions, you will receive an "FÕ in the class (even if the absences are excused). Missing this many class sessions (more than 20% of the term) undermines the integrity of the classroom experience. If you miss this much class because of illness or a family emergency, you should meet with the Dean of Students to discuss withdrawal options.


All assignments are due on assigned days. There will be NO MAKE UPS. Documented illnesses or documented emergencies are the only exception to this policy. Changes in work schedules, personal celebrations (e.g., birthdays), or vacations are NOT considered to be legitimate reasons for missing assignment deadlines or class meetings. If you miss a quiz and have documentation for your absence then you will take the quiz on the next date you attend class. Similarly, if you have an excused absence for a class session when you would turn in a paper then you can give me the paper on the next date you attend class.


Students with disabilities should provide me with documentation from the Office of Students with Disabilities.


Cellular Phones: If you have a cellular phone or pager, turn it off or set it to vibrate, and keep it in your backpack or purse. All cell phones must be put away during the class session. I will confiscate cellular phones for the remainder of the class session if you are sending or reading text messages or using your phone to check email/surf the Internet.


E-mail: I often send e-mail announcements to the class. You need to (1) make sure your preferred email address in Campus Connect is the address you check regularly so messages do not bounce back and (2) make sure my email address will pass through your spam filter.




I have often found that plagiarism becomes tempting if students are feeling pressured. Remember, when in doubt quote. If you are quoting someone else in your presentation, you need to clearly identify the information as a quote and the source. Similarly, when paraphrasing, you should clearly identify your source. If you are quoting somebody directly in your paper then you need to list the information within quotation marks and cite a page number. If you are paraphrasing then you need to cite the person and a page number. Never copy and paste entire documents into your paper and do not quote others to the point where your ideas become indistinguishable from your source's ideas. There is no reason to plagiarize given the resources available to you (e.g., opportunities to meet with me; coaches in the writing center; my handout on writing for the class; and DePaulÕs policy on academic integrity, which can be found at If you do plagiarize, you will automatically receive a grade of "F" in this class. Moreover, the Academic Affairs office will be contacted.


Grade Scale


93-100 A, 90-92 A-, 88-89 B+, 83-87 B, 80-82 B-, 78-79 C+, 73-77 C, 70-72 C-, 60-69 D, 0-59 F



Tentative Course Schedule



7/22                         Course Introduction     

                                    Selection of course leadership groups


The Value of a Liberal Education


7/24                         John Agresto, "The Public Value of the Liberal Arts"

                                    Mark Edmundson, "On Lite Entertainment for Bored College Students"


Living Together


7/29                         Robert Putnam, "The Prosperous Community"

                                    Earl Shorris, "In the Hands of the Restless Poor"

                                    Sarah Mosle, "The Vanity of Volunteerism"

                                    Proposals for Senior Projects Due


7/31                         Individual Project meetings with me (in my office)

All groups should be meeting and working in preparation for the group-led classes (and getting your reading packet finalized to be handed in next week)


8/5                            Individual Project meetings with me (in my office)

All groups should be meeting and working in preparation for the group-led classes (and getting your reading packet finalized to be handed in next week)


Career Opportunities


8/7                            Richard M. Freeland, "Rethinking Traditional Academic Views of Work"

Kimberly Lankford, "The New Resume for a New Year"

Kathleen Isaacson, "Getting Hired"

"What would I Find in Your Refrigerator"

"What to Ask at a Job Interview"

                                    "Resume Facelift"


                                    ** Scans due to me



Group Presentations


8/12                         Group Presentation


8/14                         Group Presentation


8/19                         Group Presentation



Final Projects


8/21                         Final Projects due to me in my office or in my mailbox by 5:45