C4: Groundbreaking, interdisciplinary experiential education initiative enters second year

After a successful pilot test, an international award-winning capstone course will begin its second year this September at York University.  

C4: The Cross-Campus Capstone Classroom, which meets Mondays from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. between September and April, is open to all York students at the end of their degrees, and enables students from different faculties to work in multidisciplinary teams focused on solving pressing, real-world challenges posed by organizations operating in both the for-profit and not-for-profit worlds – and to get credit for their work.  

C4’s intertwined personal, professional and academic journey offers students a chance to expand and refine their portfolios and uniquely prepares students to succeed after graduation

Past C4 partners include the Yonge Street Mission, Markham Arts Council, Canobi Tech, L’Arche Daybreak, Foundation for Environmental Stewardship and Panoplo Inc., among many others.

In last year’s course, 74 York University students from eight faculties designed solutions for 11 social impact challenges.

In one project, for example, students from the Lassonde School of Engineering, Glendon College, the Faculty of Environmental Studies and the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, worked together on “Solar Floatie,” a solar home system that provides affordable heating and electrical power for homeowners, farmers and workers in Chile. 

“Capstone courses provide high-impact learning opportunities for students that set them up to succeed after graduation,” said Danielle Robinson, the director of C4 and executive director of the York Capstone Network, as well as an associate professor in the School of the Arts, Media, Performance, & Design. 

Danielle Robinson

These important experiential learning courses, which are offered in many departments across the University, apply and thus consolidate what a student has learned in his/her/their major,” Robinson explained. This is achieved generally through an individual or group project, but placements can also serve as excellent capstone experiences for students, if they are integrated with ongoing critical reflection and assignments that apply students’ skills and knowledges.” 

Robinson and Franz Newland, an assistant professor in the Lassonde School of Engineering, are co-curriculum leads for C4 as an extension of the York Capstone Network (YCN) they founded in 2018, with integral support from the Teaching Commons and the Career Centre.  

C4 is a pan-University classroom, but not yet an official course, that requires students to register for a total of six credits in an independent study, directed reading, senior thesis or capstone course within a department. Once students gain entry to C4 through a department, they will meet senior students from other faculties, form interdisciplinary teams and have the opportunity to work on problems pitched by community partners, who will mentor them over the course of the school year. 

Franz Newland
Franz Newland

While other multidisciplinary capstones might bring together students from two or three pre-selected disciplinesC4 makes it possible for as many as five to 10 students from different Faculties to come together to engage in problem-based learning, with the potential for each group to have a completely different disciplinary makeup. 

At the end of the full-year course, C4 student teams present their projects to the community partners at a capstone showcase event. Newland says that “C4 ends with a big celebrationof these students and all they have accomplished this year, of the partners and all they have contributed and of York and its commitment to pedagogical innovation, experiential education and student success.” 

C4’s intertwined personal, professional and academic journey offers students a chance to expand and refine their portfolios and uniquely prepares students to succeed after graduation. 

This summer, the C4 project was awarded the Airbus Global Engineering Deans Council Diversity Award for increasing diversity among engineering professionals globally, so the industry reflects the diversity of its communities. 

More information about the impact of C4 can be found by watching the “What do Students Think of C4” video.

C4 makes it possible for as many as eight students from different to come together to engage in problem-based learning, with the potential for each group to have a completely different disciplinary makeup

Students interested in joining the C4 classroom and making real social impact must pre-register and register for the course by Sept. 11The pre-registration site can be found here: https://ampd.apps01.yorku.ca/machform/view.php?id=94302. The gateway courses students can register through are listed here: https://capstone.yorku.ca/c4-linked-courses/.

Pitch Weekwhen the community partners pitch their challenges to the student teams, begins Sept. 8 and continues until the first C4 class meeting on Sept. 14 (5:30 to 8:30 p.m.). Multi-disciplinary teams will then be created on Sept. 15. To access Pitch Week and the first class, students must pre-register in advance. 

Community partners for this year’s course include Jobster, Centre for Free Expression, TechConnexthe Canadian Language Museum, York’s Office of Sustainability, University Women’s Club, StoryPlanetPeel Community Climate Council, FYI – For Youth Initiative, Barnes Management Group, MaRS Discovery District and Nascent, with many more to be announced soon. 

To learn more, visit the C4: Cross-Campus Capstone Classroom webpage on the York Capstone Network website, and the “What is C4?” video.

To read a student blog about C4, visit YUBlog. 

Want to get involved? Please write to c4class@yorku.ca.