Capstone Experience

Important Documents

About the Capstone Experience

The Certificate in Geographic Information Science is completed with a 3-credit Capstone Experience that may be an internship or an independent study. The goal of the Capstone Experience is to demonstrate that the student can independently solve a geospatial problem, completing a written report on the issue, methodology, and analysis, and give a public presentation on the whole.

The capstone may be completed through a Directed Study (GISC 491) or an Internship (GISC 499). In order to register, students must:

  1. Be currently reenrolled in the GISC Program (How to Apply)
  2. Have a GPA of 2.5 or higher in certificate program courses
  3. Have completed 12 credits of the certificate program

Students may work on internships for academic credit prior to the capstone internship.

The Capstone Experience satisfies UMW’s Experiential Learning or Beyond Mary Washington general education requirements.

Internship or Independent Study?

Students are free to choose the option that best serves their situation. Both options provide students with the opportunity to showcase and expand their GIS skills. While every attempt is made to help a student find an Internship, in their area of interest for the semester when they want to take it, in the event that an Internship is not available, the Directed Study is the only option.

The Directed Study option is favored by students engaged in research projects with faculty members, or students who cannot travel to an internship.

Internships expose students to an employer and a GIS work environment. Most are on-site, so the student experiences project management, team work, and social aspects of the work place. They may lead to ongoing internships or jobs, and a letter of reference.

Questions? Please come in to speak to me, Jackie Gallagher, Monroe 313,

Directed Study, GISC 491

Students opting for a Directed Study (GISC 491) will identify a faculty member from any department who can supervise the Capstone. If the faculty member does not know GIS well, he/she will ask for guidance from members of the Geography Department. The student and faculty member should work together to identify a geospatial problem that will be addressed by the student. During the course, the student will work on the problem, completing a paper describing it, the methodology used, results and analysis. The student will participate in a public presentation at the end of the semester.

While subject to change, a GISC 491 sample syllabus is available here

Registration is on a green Individual Study Registration form and should be completed by the first Friday of classes, the Add Deadline. Signatures are required from the faculty advisor and Department Chair.


Most Internships require students to work on site, providing them with work place experience in a real-world environment. In general, students are at the site one day a week for at least 12 weeks; depending on the location, the hours can be spread over more than one day. Remote Internships are also possible. Ultimately, a student is likely to work on their Capstone paper and presentation outside of “work” hours.

GISC students are encouraged to identify an Internship themselves. However, the grade relies on more than the satisfaction of the agency supervisor. What makes this different from “any” internship is the completion and presentation of a single project. Students will likely work on many different tasks while at the Internship; for the capstone, student and agency supervisor choose one of those and elevate it to the level of “project”. The agency supervisor must understand and agree to this before the contract is signed.

In order to assess all students equally, projects cannot be classified. Students working with classified data will have to find some way to demonstrate their work using unclassified data and methods. These will likely require clearance from the supervisor.

While every attempt is made to help a student find an Internship, in their area of interest for the semester when they want to take it, in the event that an Internship is not available, the Directed Study is the only option.

While subject to change, a GISC 499 sample syllabus is available here

Registration is via the Internship Contract available electronically here. 3 credits are required – meaning an obligation to complete 126 hours of work during the semester. Please note that the agency supervisor is required to sign this document and should help fill out the description of tasks to be completed. The faculty sponsor is the Department Chair, who will sign twice. This contract is due by the first Friday of the semester, the Add Deadline.

Important Deadlines:

  • Friday of the first week of classes: Submit completed Internship Contract to Registrar’s Office by 5pm
  • Monday of week 5: submit a paragraph describing your project, via Canvas
  • During week 12-13, the agency supervisor will receive an evaluation form to be returned to the Careers Office
  • Monday of week 13: Confirm your presentation date and time
  • Monday of last week of classes: Submit your written paper, via Canvas
  • Last week of classes-finals week: Give final presentation, in time and place assigned
Graph shows types of host organizations and the number of students who interned at each.

Sixty-six students completed their GISC capstones at 13 different types of host institution between fall 2017 and spring 2021. An additional 34 completed Directed Study capstones.