Tag Archives: studies


Capstone projects are an excellent opportunity for leadership studies students to gain and demonstrate a variety of important skills that are highly valuable both during their academic career and beyond in the workforce. These large, multifaceted projects allow students to synthesize the knowledge and skills they have attained throughout their degree program while also developing new abilities that will make them stronger, more well-rounded leaders. Some of the key skills that students can cultivate through capstone projects include:

Research skills – Capstone projects require extensive research on a leadership topic of the student’s choosing. This gives students experience finding credible sources, analyzing data, identifying gaps and trends in existing research, and staying up to date on the latest developments. Conducting an independent research project enhances students’ ability to ask meaningful questions, gain insights, and uncover new perspectives and applications of leadership theory.

Project management skills – Coordinating a major long-term project from inception to completion requires strong project management abilities. Students take on responsibilities like developing a timeline and schedule, creating benchmarks and deliverables, assigning tasks, coordinating with other team members if applicable, managing resources and budgets, addressing challenges, and ensuring the project is finished on time. This provides invaluable experience that can transfer to managing complex initiatives in the workplace.

Critical thinking and problem-solving skills – Throughout the capstone process, students encounter hurdles and unforeseen issues that require critical thought, analytical skills, and out-of-the-box problem-solving to overcome. This could involve re-evaluating goals, strategizing alternative approaches, troubleshooting roadblocks, thinking creatively under pressures and constraints, and exercising sound judgment to complete the project successfully. Students gain confidence in their ability to think on their feet and solve complex problems.

Written and verbal communication skills – Capstone projects culminate in a substantial written paper summarizing the research, conclusions, and recommendations. Students strengthen skills like organization, clarity, analysis, argumentation, and properly citing sources. They may also present their project verbally to classmates, faculty, or external audiences. This develops their presentation abilities while giving them experience effectively communicating specialized information to different stakeholder groups.

Self-direction, self-motivation, and time management – With more autonomy than in traditional coursework, capstone projects require self-direction, self-motivation, and exemplary time management to independently complete a major undertaking while balancing other responsibilities. Students learn to set priorities, structure their workload strategically, persevere through setbacks, and effectively utilize their time. These “soft” skills are invaluable for success in advanced education programs and future careers.

Working independently as well as collaboratively – While often an individual endeavor, some capstone projects involve coordinating with classmates or external partners through aspects of their research design or application. This collaborative component helps students improve interpersonal skills like diplomacy, shared decision making, coordinating joint efforts, dividing tasks, establishing accountability, constructive conflict resolution, and consensus building. They gain experience effectively conducting themselves both as leaders and team members.

Technical and digital literacy – To complete research, collect and analyze data, design models or frameworks, disseminate findings through multimedia presentations or reports, and utilize available technologies, students expand their technical and digital literacy. They become more skilled at using programs like statistical analysis software, presentation tools, project management applications, research databases, and other technologies common to modern leadership roles.

Self-assessment skills – Toward the end of the capstone experience, students engage in critical self-reflection on their work, the project outcomes, and their own growth. This includes contemplating what they have learned about leadership, their strengths and weaknesses, goals for continued improvement, and how well they accomplished initial objectives. Self-assessment improves metacognitive ability and prepares students for ongoing professional development throughout their careers.

Leadership studies capstone projects provide real-world experience directly applying knowledge in an extended hands-on project environment. This results in students gaining a comprehensive skill set targeting the complex demands of modern leadership roles. From research prowess to communication abilities to critical thinking, project management expertise, self-direction, collaboration skills, and technical literacy, capstones foster rounded skill development preparing graduates for leadership success in their post-graduate careers or further academic pursuits. The substantial long-term undertaking truly allows students to showcase their talents as emerging leaders.


Social identity theory proposed by Henri Tajfel and John Turner in the 1970s suggests that individuals derive a sense of who they are based partially on the groups they belong to. A central proposition of the theory is that individuals are motivated to achieve a positive social identity and self-esteem from belonging to social groups. Since its development, social identity theory has received significant empirical research and testing of its core propositions. Here are some examples of classic and contemporary studies that have helped validate social identity theory:

One of the early and seminal experiments designed to test social identity theory was conducted by Tajfel and his colleagues in 1971 known as the “minimal group paradigm”. In this study, participants were arbitrarily assigned to meaningless groups based on trivial criteria like preferences for certain artists or scents. Despite the groups having no meaningful differences, results showed participants tended to favor members of their own group over others when making rewards allocations. This provided support for social identity theory’s proposition that merely categorizing individuals into social groups is sufficient to trigger in-group favoritism and bias. The minimal group studies demonstrated how social identities and intergroup behavior can form even in the absence of prior interactions or meaningful distinguishing characteristics between groups.

Another important line of research tested social identity theory’s prediction that individuals are motivated to achieve positive social identities. In 1976, Doosje, Ellemers, and Spears conducted a study where participants’ social identities were either enhanced or threatened. Results showed those whose social identities as group members were threatened displayed more negative evaluations of outgroups, while positively reinforced identities led to more cooperative intergroup behavior. This supported the theorized link between threats/enhancements to social identity and responses aimed at maintaining positive group distinctiveness. Further experiments by Branscombe and Wann in 1994 replicated these effects and pointed to the role of collective self-esteem in upholding positive social identities.

Social identity theory also posits that identities become more salient in contexts marked by intergroup comparisons. To evaluate this, Brown and her colleagues in 1992 performed a meta-analysis of 80 studies using a real or imagined competitive framework between groups. They found strong evidence that intergroup competition reliably leads to more pronounced in-group bias and favoritism compared to non-competitive contexts as identities become more relevant for self-definition. More recent work by Golec de Zavala and colleagues in 2009 also showed social comparisons between nationwide groups can impact national identification and intergroup threat perceptions among individuals.

The proposition that identity salience is context-dependent has further been substantiated in field settings. For example, Crisp and colleagues in 2015 examined perceptions of national identity salience and intergroup relations among followers of football teams in England. Survey results indicated English fans reported heightened English identity and biases toward rival Welsh fans particularly after losses to Welsh teams when collective identities felt most threatened. Similarly, research by Jecker and Landy in 1969 on racial attitudes found that encounters framed in competitive terms led to more polarized social identities and prejudice than non-competitive frames. These studies provide evidence identities become more meaningful guides for behavior in contexts of intergroup conflict versus cooperation.

Over decades of experimentation and investigation across situations, social identity theory’s core ideas about the psychological effects of group memberships have received considerable empirical support. Studies using the minimal group paradigm, identity threat/enhancement manipulations, and examinations of competitive versus cooperative contexts have consistently borne out social identity theory’s key propositions. From arbitrarily assigned groups to meaningful social categories, research has validated social identity theory’s insights regarding in-group favoritism, needs for positive distinctiveness, and contextual variation in identity salience. The replicability and generalizability of findings substantiating social identity theory across lab and real-world settings speaks to its enduring usefulness as a framework for understanding intergroup relations and social behavior.