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York University’s Capstone classroom: taking experiential learning to the next level

This award-winning program bridges the gap between classroom education and hands-on problem solving, as students from diverse backgrounds work together to tackle world issues

York University has developed a unique program, Cross Campus Capstone Classroom, to provide upper-year under-graduate and graduate students an opportunity to work collaboratively on real world challenges with social impact.

In the few years since its launch, the program has won several international awards—including a recent one from the aerospace pioneer Airbus—for noteworthy projects designed by students from across the campus.

The core concept of the program is to bring together students from diverse disciplines to contribute their different perspectives to solve problems, while working in project teams. For example, politics student Javeria Mirza participated in designing the award-winning Solar Floatie—primarily an engineering project aimed at building a solar home system to provide affordable heating and electrical power for homeowners, farmers and workers in remote areas.

“Capstone prepared me with the tools to work effectively in a multidisciplinary team and think outside the box about complex world problems,” says Mirza, who took the Capstone course in the final year of her Specialized Global Politics degree program. “It equipped students like me to be forward-looking and build the new skills we need in order to respond to global challenges as future leaders.”

Mirza currently works for the UN High Commission for Refugees while pursuing graduate studies in politics at York. She adds, “I was surprised by how much working on the Capstone project changed me as a person, student and young leader.”

When York students apply their knowledge, they gain a sense of their own power and how they can use it to make the world a better place. Professor Danielle Robinson, Director of C4 (Cross-Campus Capstone Classroom) at York says the program was created with this in mind: “Throughout the course, students will develop and hone transferrable skills while learning the value of multiple perspectives and approaches to research, design, and problem solving. This experience will help students to recognize what they can offer the world and thus prepare them for their future.”

Robinson highlights that Capstone projects are selected based on how well they advance York’s reputation for shaping change makers and leaders of a sustainable future, as a global institution that has been consistently ranked highly for impact on the UN’s sustainable development goals.

Capstone projects are developed with the support of York’s diverse, internationally renowned research faculty and subject experts. As part of the program, students also gain workplace experience with external partners, working closely with mentors in professional fields relating  to their respective projects.

Last year, projects tackled, among other things: How ride share services can work with public transit to reduce environmental impacts; how arts and culture spaces can help us heal from the pandemic; affordable dialysis machines for remote areas; how to tell “deep fake” videos from real ones; and how non-recyclable waste can be turned into fuel. It’s a roster of problems and solutions as diverse as the students who worked on them—all with the potential to impact not just their individual learning experience, but the way the rest of us live.

Amazing things happen when diverse communities work together to tackle world issues. So, if you are a current or future student, consider taking the Capstone course—for it will be another reason to proudly call York your academic home.

For more information about York University, please visit yorku.ca/rightthefuture.