I attended the "defenses" for the MS in Technical Communication program tonight. These are a result of what is called the "Capstone Course", also known as ENG 675, that each person has to take before graduating from the program. Basically, this is in lieu of doing a thesis, as is done in other Master's degree programs.
I attended, in general, to see what the process is like; that is, what kinds of projects are done (and thus defended), the scope of the presentations, the kinds of questions asked by the professors during the actual defense part, and if anyone presents in shorts and a t-shirt. (The answer is no, by the way. Of the two guys, one had on a button-down shirt with no tie, and the other was in a suit. The ladies were "pretty" -- if you go for that sort of thing.) I chose tonight's session, in particular, because I knew several of the presenters -- having been in classes with them over the past year-and-a-half.
The projects consisted of one published paper about indexing, a training program for the Quintiles corporation, a website for a mental health consortium, and a website about the folklore society journal. I feel like I'm forgetting one other one, but perhaps not.
The "defense questions" were not too bad, though I suspect nerves kept a couple of people from understanding what the poser was really trying to get to with a couple of their question(s). The whole thing seems a little weird to me, in that, it works like this:
- Each presenter has two consultants assigned to them throughout the course and project. These consultants are professors in the MS in Tech Comm program. They are responsible for guiding you through the process. You bring your work to them as you go along, they give you feedback, and you revise, revise revise.
- These same two consultants are the ones who make up (and ask) your defense questions during the defense meeting.
- These same two consultants leave the room, along with the consultants of the other presenters, who, together, discuss and assess all of the presentations.
- How motivated are the consultants to ask their students tough questions, because how is it going to make them look as consultants if the very people they've been providing consultation to can't answer the questions?
- As a group, how easy it for these professors to say that their colleagues' students were bad without affecting their own working relationship, and as a group, how motivated are they to have it look like they didn't "raise good kids" if several of them don't do well.