Capstone Festival 2022:

April 22, 2022

Honored seniors posing at 2019's Capstone Festival. The annual event will be held May 2-6. It celebrates the scholarly and artistic achievements of the graduating class by showcasing superlative student projects and theses from the academic year. The best receive awards from a panel of faculty judges.

For nearly 20 years Mary Baldwin students, faculty, staff, and alumni have been gathering with local community members to celebrate the scholarly and artistic achievements of top undergraduate seniors at the annual Capstone Festival. The event showcases superlative student projects and theses from the academic year — and honors the best with awards selected by a panel of faculty judges.

The festival opens with an array of projects being displayed in Grafton Library and Hunt Gallery on May 2. (Virtual attendance options are available for #MBUfamily members that can’t make it in person.) They range from miniature art shows, to audio/visual recordings of live musical performances, to manuscripts, multimedia research exhibitions, and more. Special student presentations take place on the final day (May 6), and culminate in a pre-Commencement awards ceremony. 

Honored seniors posing at 2019's Capstone Festival. The annual event will be held May 2-6. It celebrates the scholarly and artistic achievements of the graduating class by showcasing superlative student projects and theses from the academic year. The best receive awards from a panel of faculty judges.

“These are high-quality projects  that have taken a tremendous amount of work and dedication to complete,” said assistant professor of criminology and sociology Beth Easterling, the festival’s co-chair. Capstone brings an opportunity to recognize students’ accomplishments, and share them with community members in a manner that both contextualizes and highlights their significance.   

For instance, doctor of occupational therapy student Jordan Widenhouse ’22 was outraged when she discovered homeless people are, at a minimum, 30% more likely to suffer traumatic brain injuries than others — and those that do rarely receive proper treatment. Outreach revealed that most personnel at regional shelters and supportive nonprofits had no related training. Widenhouse partnered with the Brain Injury Association of Virginia to teach more than 300 providers to identify the symptoms of brain injuries, provide immediate care, and connect clients with proper services and treatment options. 

“This project gave me the opportunity to make a real and lasting impact on the community,” said Widenhouse, who will present at the Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences building on May 11. Being able to use education “to empower people to give others the help and care they need was an incredible experience.”

Clockwise from left: Jordan Widenhouse '22; Capstone participants presenting on topics ranging from cutting-edge medical hygiene research, to founding a social justice oriented record label, to creating a series of artistic sculptures.

English major Jelani Meyer ’22  pursued a very different direction for his capstone: He spent much of the past year studying and writing about Ralph Ellison’s 1952 U.S. National Book Award winning novel, Invisible Man.  

“Ellison takes his reader on a journey through the heart of the African American experience — which has long been recognized as one of the most debilitating injustices in human history,” said Meyer. The book articulates the crushing sadness “of never truly having the means to explore one’s own identity, because simply fighting for a place to exist takes precedent.”

The work has laid the foundation for research Meyer will continue next fall in North Carolina A&T’s renowned graduate program in African American literature. 

From left: English major Jelani Meyer ’22 used his Capstone Project to prepare for grad school; undergraduate seniors presenting a study of African American beauty in paint, and a business plan for a literary publishing company.

MBU’s Capstone Festival 2022  will feature about 40 student projects. Faculty, alumni, and members of the Mary Baldwin executive staff mingle with students, asking questions about research, and enjoying the atmosphere of scholarship and celebration.    

“This event exemplifies the kind of student-centered focus and communal academic intimacy that’s possible at a university of our size,” said MBU President Pamela R. Fox. It’s a nod to early traditions at Mary Baldwin — then known as the Augusta Female Seminary — where seniors took their graduation exams before a public audience. The ceremony brought an opportunity for local community members to praise and honor student accomplishments.  

“I think that deep history makes Capstone so much more special,” said Easterling. It both positions soon-to-be graduates in a long line of predecessors, and offers a window into the future for younger students, providing a glimpse of opportunities to come. 

“I always feel a huge sense of pride when I see our students’ amazing work on display,” Easterling continued. “You get to hear them discuss the practical implications and applications of their research with [a general audience], and receive the praise and attention they deserve. It’s such a great and uplifting sendoff.” 

“My MBU Capstone Project provided an opportunity to make a real and lasting impact on the community. It was an incredibly valuable experience. ”
doctor of occupational therapy student Jordan Widenhouse ’22

INTERESTED IN LEARNING MORE  about MBU’s Capstone Festival? CLICK HERE for a schedule of this year’s events, a list of student projects, historical information, and more.