Seniors forced to alter their capstone projects after COVID-19 restrictions

By Noah Johnson

DeKALB — Some honors students won’t be able to complete their senior capstone projects as planned due to COVID-19, Edye Cowan, associate director of academic strategic planning for the honors program, said.

This comes amid statewide closures, cancellations and a stay at home order issued by Gov. J.B. Pritzker on March 20, limiting face-to-face interaction. Undergraduate research and artistry day — when students present their projects — will be held online due to these events.

The senior capstone is an opportunity for honor students to produce a final academic project with the guidance of a faculty mentor, according to NIU’s website. The project also gives students a chance to showcase their work for future job or graduate school opportunities.

However, some students were forced to make adjustments to their projects in light of the events concerning COVID-19, Cowan said.

“One student is unable to run participants for her research, and another was planning to work on a conference happening at NIU that is canceled,” Cowan said.  “One project included a public school presentation — that can’t happen now that public schools are closed.”

Mikaela Appleberry is double majoring in human development and family sciences and rehabilitation and disability services.

With the guidance of her mentor, she said her research project is to determine the differences in how parents interact with their children when playing with a physical toy versus technology.

“My project matters to me because I want to have lots of children, and I want them to have the best experience with me as much as possible without much disruption to our bonding time,” Appleberry said.

She’s continuing to write her manuscript and analyze data for her project, but she said she’s trying to find time to meet with her mentor concerning her research.

Nursing major Agape Montero’s project is to write a book for middle school children about mental health awareness.

“While there’s a recent mental health awareness wave, a lot of it is tailored to young adults and high schoolers,” she said. “I believe that middle school age is a good time to start learning about mental health, being aware of their own, what they can do to manage it themselves or how to reach out for help if needed.”

She said she won’t be able to present her book at middle schools how she originally wanted.

“I want[ed] to see if it’d be beneficial, or if kids would use and like it,” she said.

Other than her presentation idea, she said there haven’t been many changes to her project. But, she said the impact of COVID-19 on the university is disheartening.

“While I do understand the necessity to quarantine, frankly, it sucks,” she said. “It felt like out of the blue. The rest of our college experience has been ‘canceled’ essentially.”

Students should work with their professors to alter their projects if needed, Cowan said.

The NIU honors program is offering an online help session to assist students with their projects, Cowan said. The session is 2 to 3 p.m. March 24 on BlackBoard.

During the help session, students will be able to discuss issues and ask questions relating to their projects.