my capstone experience

Justin Tardif '08

Justin Tardif '08, a History, Society, and Culture major with a minor in Psychology from Biddeford, Maine, was on the tennis team and at Commencement was recognized with the Scholar-Athlete Award. He was also chosen by faculty to receive the Baccalaureate Award in History, Society, and Culture, which honors the student who shows the highest degree of dedication and excellence in his field of study. Here, Tardif discusses his Capstone project, which was researching the U.S. Constitution's Reconstruction amendments. The Capstone project, which involves extensive research and presentation, is the culmination of each student's academic experience and part of the Liberal Education Program at Colby-Sawyer College. After graduation, Tardif would like to find a social studies teaching position at the secondary level in Maine or New Hampshire.

Describe the subject of your Capstone project and why you chose to focus on this subject.

My Capstone project dealt with the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments, which collectively are known as the Reconstruction amendments, and their immediate impact on Southern culture in the United States. I have always been interested in Reconstruction and the aftermath of the assassination of President Lincoln, because arguably at no greater time has the country faced such a difficult situation.

What research did you conduct for this project?

The Supreme Court takes the greatest blame for the failure of Reconstruction in general, and more specifically, in limiting the meaning of the 14th and 15th amendments to nothing practical for blacks. Also, Congress and the Radical Republicans set the stage for the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s by changing the Constitution. Contrary to popular belief, the 15th amendment did not give the right to vote to anyone, black or white, at least in the eyes of the Supreme Court.

What did you learn through your Capstone project, and in what ways is it a culmination of your learning experience at Colby-Sawyer?

This Capstone was rewarding because it was my last major work at this college. It was not just a year-long project but something that began with a mention when I was a freshman. In a sense, it was four years in the making.

What did you find most challenging and difficult about the project?

Researching the specific court cases which dealt with the Reconstruction amendments was very tiresome. The writing of these court cases was very long and at times difficult to read and comprehend.

What do you hope will be the lasting value of your Capstone project, both for you and others?

This Capstone project was my last accomplishment at Colby-Sawyer. It was a good four years, but my best years are still ahead of me.