What is a senior capstone project?

Senior Capstone Projects take place in the senior year of study. They are designed to explore a passion with intensity, take the shape of a large experiential project, or complete a research topic written thesis. Projects are designed to challenge and upend your comfort zone. They are publicly celebrated through performance, exhibition, publication, and oral presentation.

VPA Senior Capstone Projects 2020

Kevin Benkart - Graphic Design Major

Blackheart - Music and Merch

Street-wear clothing line “Blackheart” paired with music. The company, clothing and music focus on mental health awareness with a charitable component.

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Jake Benson - Theatre Arts Major


Wrote one-act play, Brotherly, to promote conversation in the theatre community on mental health issues.

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Emily Burke - Theatre Arts Major

Director’s Pitch

Created a director’s pitch for the play Gruesome Playground Injuriesby Rajiv Joseph.

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Madison Christian - Theatre Arts Major

Focused Research

Theatre and Mental Health: The Arts as a Necessary Role in Education.

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Dillon Cloonan - Music Major

At the Intersection of Rock and Rap

Research and composition project/performance exploring the connections between rock music and rap.

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Emma Hoey - Studio Arts Major


A body of work deals with how mental health issues affect a sense of self.

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Kira Kolodziej - Graphic Design Major


Redesigned furniture with a lasting environmental impact.

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Benjamin Mendonca - Theatre Arts Major

Stage Management: The Moors

Stage-managed the VPA Fall 2019 play- The Moors. Nominated for Excellence in Stage Management and competed in the regional college theatre festival.

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Kailey Meyer - Graphic Design Major

Unfiltered magazine

Editorial design for a young women’s magazine based on body image.

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Nick Paolino - Graphic Design Major

Godspeed Leather Co. 

High-quality leather goods company that features a small line of product, branding, and marketing. godspeedleather.com

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Katrina Pusateri - Graphic Design Minor

Lancaster Made

Quality homemade jams and spreads inspired by old-fashioned family roots.

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Emily Reed-Edwards - Theatre Arts Major

WWII Theatre

Interviewing family members gathering memories about World War II and Theatre.

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Joe Tavanese - Graphic Arts Major

Project Traveler

Anime story with characters, storyboards and a trailer.

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Josh White - Graphic Design

Slab Countertops

Custom countertops out of concrete and epoxy. Construction company.

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VPA Student Awards 2020

Performing Artist of the Year-Theatre

Emily Burke

Emily Burke (2020) was nominated for her performance in the fall VPA production of The Moors, where she appeared in the role of Huldey. Emily is a Theatre Arts and English major and served this year as the President of the Onstagers Dramatic Society. Emily was also cast in the role of Gertrude McFuzz in the spring musical Seussical: The Musical which, unfortunately, had to be cancelled when the college moved to remote learning.


Additional Nominees in this Category: Sarah Scougall 



Performing Artist of the Year-Music

Dillion Cloonan

Dillon Cloonan (2020) was nominated for his innovative concept and execution in his senior capstone project for his Contract Major in Music. Dillon’s project investigates the intersections between the musical styles of rock and rap. Drawing on his extensive and diverse musical knowledge, Dillon’s capstone yielded a well-researched academic thesis, as well as creative music composition work connecting the musical elements of these two styles.


Additional Nominees in this Category: Mike Emery, Kristen Scheeler



David Raymond Visual Artist of the Year

Kevin Benkart award picture

Kevin Benkart (2020) was nominated for his creative blend of art and design in his senior project. His project brings mental health issues into dialogue producing two complimentary artifacts. Kevin’s working process yielded both highly engaging visual work for a streetwear brand, as well as a thematically linked collection of songs.


Additional Nominees in this Category: Emma Hoey, Nick Paolino, Josh White




Arts Event of the Year

Merrimack College Christmas Concert

The Merrimack College Christmas Concert (December 2019) featured the Merrimack Concert Band, Concert Choir, and Jazz Ensemble joining forces to present their annual musical celebration of the Christmas season in the Rogers Center. A second performance of the concert was added for the first time this year, due to audience demand. A benefit event for Lazarus House, all proceeds were donated to that organization to help with their food pantry, homeless shelter, and other services. Over $5,000 was raised at the concerts for these programs, a new record.


Additional Nominees in this Category: The Moors (VPA Department Show; Youniverse by Emma Hoey, a Pop-Up Exhibition