To cap it off


by David Doremus

Spring 2022 CIS 484 Capstone competition winners from Team Dukes Digital. Left to right: Back row: Royce Bryson, Ved Sheth, Joey Haggerty, Andrew Walko, Daniel Doh, Austin Kim, Jake Decker, Shelly Hokanson (SMAD associate professor). Front row: David Wang (SMAD associate professor), Claire Leidinger, Samantha Heller, Teodora Hryschchyshyn, Holly Stier, Michael Fronzaglia, Jordan Crowe (’20) (KPMG mentor), Jeremy Ezell (CIS/BSAN associate professor and lead instructor for CIS 484 Capstone). Not pictured: Matthew Pak

SUMMARY: As they prepare to graduate, digital engineers and artists team up to build a technology solution for ‘Ole Schoolers.’

For a ninth consecutive year — discounting a brief hiatus in Spring 2020 when COVID-19 forced a cancellation — students from the CIS 484 Capstone course (Information Systems Development and Implementation) and the two Capstone courses offered by the School of Media Arts and Design (SMAD) formed teams that engaged in spirited but friendly competition to design, develop and implement an information system for a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization in the real world.

The beneficiary of their efforts in the Spring 2022 renewal of the contest was the Ole School Alumni Scholarship Group (OSASG), made up of James Madison University graduates who, according to the organization’s website, serve as “a professional network and recruitment liaison for underrepresented students.” OSASG helps steer promising high-school students to JMU, connecting them with Ole School-affiliated alumni who can provide academic and career counseling. Later, these alumni may also assist with job and internship placement.

Some 150 seniors from the three classes were organized into a dozen teams. Each spent the semester working out its own vision for an OSASG information system. The teams provided periodic progress updates during which system quality and functionality were evaluated and ranked.

On April 30, after the two finalists in the competition had made their 45-minute presentations to a panel of five judges, Team Dukes Digital was designated the winner, edging out the team from Savvy Solutions.

Among the 12 teams, “there wasn't a single poor effort,” said Jeremy Ezell, Ph.D., associate professor of CIS/BSAN and lead instructor for the CIS 484 Capstone course. “There were many hundreds of hours of work put into this project,” he said, “and for some teams it may even have totaled a thousand hours or more.”

As he spoke, jubilant members of Team Dukes Digital spilled out of the Grafton Stovall Theater to celebrate their victory. Each received a trophy and a $200 gift card from KPMG, the global professional services network. Ezell expressed gratitude to KPMG for sponsoring and supporting the Capstone competition, which it has done without interruption since 2014.

The Capstone project required students to integrate and apply everything they had learned since their arrival at JMU, researching and leveraging new knowledge to solve actual business problems through the use of technology. Faculty members say the student experience far surpasses that provided by comparable courses at JMU’s peer institutions.

The problem tackled by the Capstone teams involved building a web application that could serve as the hub for OSASG’s communication and mentorship functions, consolidating them into a single information system that would eliminate the need for old-fashioned emails, spreadsheets and sticky notes.

"Faculty members and Capstone students alike are grateful to the Ole School Alumni Scholarship Group for giving us the opportunity to work with an organization that so richly benefits the JMU community," said Ezell.

Collaborating with Ezell were associate professors Shelly Hokanson and David Wang, instructors for the two upper-level SMAD courses (Advanced Interactive Design and Converged Media Lab).

The judges for the Spring 2022 Capstone competition were:

  • Phil Bennett ('92), partner at KPMG and a member of the CoB Board of Advisors,
  • Brenden Boyle ('20), cloud engineering intermediate at MITRE,
  • Nora Crouch (ʼ82), executive director of internship and job placement for the Ole School Alumni Scholarship Group, member of the CoB Board of Advisors and winner of the 2020 Distinguished Alumni Award from the CoB,
  • Adam Hitchings (ʼ18), software-development engineer II for Amazon Web Services,
  • Adrienne Hooker, associate professor in JMU’s School of Media Arts and Design.

Back to Top

Published: Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Last Updated: Monday, January 8, 2024

Related Articles