HOD Capstone launches three student-led task forces to help better include students in Capstone’s feedback process

Petition to address equity and inclusion issues in HOD Capstone receives more than 300 signatures.

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Emily Gonçalves

Vanderbilt’s Peabody Campus. (Former Hustler Multimedia/Emily Gonçalves)

Robert Gottschalk, Staff Writer

HOD Capstone has launched three student-led task forces/advisory boards that will begin their work in Fall 2020.

These task-forces were launched as an attempt by HOD faculty to “have the student voice in on the conversation and work collaboratively to create a culture of trust, respect and provide the best learning outcomes,” Director of HOD’s Capstone Professor Kristen Thompkins said in an email to The Hustler.   

The first task force, the HOD Campus Partner Task Force, will partner with Financial Aid, Peabody College Equity, the Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Office, the Career Center and the LGBTQI Life Center to provide support and resources for the Capstone design process. 

The second task force, the HOD Undergraduate Communications Task Force, will explore new ways of articulating HOD stories and open up more networking opportunities for students. 

The third task force, the HOD Alumni Engagement Advisory, will work with the alumni office, HOD alumni and HOD Capstone team to grow Capstone partnerships.

The HOD Capstone has been a graduation requirement since 1986, pairing HOD students with internship opportunities from over 300 organizations to provide a semester-long organizational learning experience during their junior or senior year.

A petition garnering more than 300 signatures since its July 7 creation seeks to reform Peabody’s Human Organizational Development (HOD) Capstone by addressing a variety of diversity and inclusion issues.

The petition, started by senior HOD major Abby Brafman, began out of an attempt to examine issues within her community. 

“I started thinking about [the HOD Capstone] as a diversity and inclusion issue, and once we put the light on it from that perspective, it became egregiously clear that there is so much packing into Capstone that is inaccessible and unfair to a lot of people,” Brafman said.

In response to these perceived issues, Brafman created a GroupMe Called “Reform HOD Capstone,” and distributed a Google Form.

“I had everyone through a Google Form say their grievances, the issues they have been having, and sorted it into categories: transportation issues, academic issues, social impact, financial barriers [and] other, ” Brafman said.

Brafman and the over 100 GroupMe members then created a petition that addressed the feedback in the surveys. In the petition, students ask for campus parking to be reduced for Capstone students. Additionally, the petition looks at the financial strain that a semester of work may have on a student in both paid and unpaid internships. In response, the petition suggests that Peabody College offer more scholarship opportunities and stipends as well as a reduction in tuition as solutions.

Professor Kristen Tompkins, HOD Chair Dr. Paul Speer, Director of Undergraduate Studies for HOD Dr. Leigh Gilchrist, and Moderator and Assistant Dean for Peabody’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Office Dr. Hasina Moyhuddin, provided an email response to The Hustler’s questions about the equity issues raised in the petition. 

“In my experience, I have seen the faculty and administration of HOD work to thoughtfully address issues of equity and inclusion in the Capstone program. They have been responsive to changes in student needs—willing to address issues that arise and providing a number of flexible options for students,”  Moyhuddin said.

As for the petition’s request for the Capstone program to offer opportunities in more cities other than Nashville, Chicago, Washington D.C, New York City, San Francisco and London, HOD’s email response details the option for a city of the student’s choice. 

“The HOD Capstone office has always offered students a distance learning option where they can design a Capstone experience that meets their personal plan,” the email said.

Brafman says that she is not expecting things to change overnight. “This conversation can continue for next year or two. It doesn’t have to be reformed now, but I think starting the conversation while there was that momentum is very important,” Brafman said.