Currently viewing the tag: "Capstone"

I learned about Melinda’s research, the subject of the first post on Cool Stuff Students Do, a few weeks ago, and it inspired me to gather more information about student activities that I never hear about.  Now that I’ve collected other stories (many on less academic topics) for future posts, it seems fitting to kick off this new feature with Melinda’s description of her travels for thesis research.  

Melinda

Melinda and the National Chief Imam of Ghana

I received support of my MALD thesis research through the Dean’s Research Fund.  The funding allowed me to travel over the winter break to Ghana, where I was able to interview key Muslim and Christian religious leaders in Accra, Kumasi, and Ho, three of the country’s main cities in three different regions.  This primary data will give depth to my analysis of the role of religious leaders in promoting nonviolence and addressing conflict in society, and of the challenges they face in doing so.  The financial support was instrumental in facilitating this opportunity to address such a profound issue in my Fletcher capstone project.

I’ve included a photograph of myself with the National Chief Imam of the Republic of Ghana, Sheikh Dr. Osmanu Nuhu Sharubutu, an amazing and highly respected figure whom I was able to meet during my trip, and whose office hosted me most graciously.  I met the colleague who facilitated my work, Alhaji Khuzaima Mohamed Osman, the Executive Secretary for the National Chief Imam, during my internship last summer with The Carter Center.  It is only through that relationship that I was able to conduct the research I did in Ghana.

In addition to my research, while in Ghana I was on the English language Islamic television program, IQRA, hosted by Sheikh Imam Muhammad Hussaini Bagnya, who is also a graduate student of governance and leadership at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration.  I appeared twice, the first time on a program of solidarity for Christmas, and the second on a program discussing coexistence and tolerance with an interfaith panel of guests.

I was also in attendance at the Office of the National Chief Imam’s New Year’s Eve event, where I was invited to address the gathering of community and respected religious scholars and leaders with a solidarity message.

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The Fletcher faculty has made some changes to what used to be the thesis requirement for all degree programs.  Going forward, the requirement will be for the production of a capstone project.  For some students (and their professors), this represents no change whatsoever.  They arrived at Fletcher looking forward to writing a traditional academic thesis, and that’s what they’re going to do.  For other students, this marks a welcome change.  In some fields, a thesis is not the project format that best lends itself to the presentation of two year’s worth of learning.  Here’s a little of the email Academic Dean Peter Uvin sent to students to explain the change.  (Note that this was an email sent directly to students, not an official document, hence the casual language.)  He starts by saying that, in fact, little (beyond the name of the project) has changed.

First, all degree programs always had to write a thesis, which was understood to be a traditional research project.  Now we are changing that title a bit (“capstone project”) and we are giving students more flexibility in terms of their final academic piece of work.  Over the years, many students have found the research thesis a very useful and rewarding experience, and they can continue to do this with all the professors at Fletcher.  But other students have felt that a thesis was not a particularly useful exercise, given what they would be doing after Fletcher.  We now officially allow for a broader range of choices to accommodate those students.

Second, students used to develop their thesis topics in many different ways, and this will also continue, though we will be more explicit about the need to associate the thesis writing with a course credit.  Here are the choices for how a capstone project can be developed:

◊   Students can continue to build their capstone project off a course paper;
◊   A number of professors have decided that their courses are set up in such a way that their required final product is really an excellent preparation for the capstone project. This may be because they offer a lot of methodology, or because they require a product that is very labor intensive, or because they help students develop research proposals, etc.  Those classes will now be called “incubator courses.”  Students are not obliged to take incubator courses for their capstone projects; it is simply an option.  Also: you can take these courses even if you do not want to write your capstone project through them!
◊   Students can also continue to use an independent study in order to write their capstone project.
◊   Often professors look for student assistance with research projects.  The innovation here is that we encourage professors and students who work together in this way to use that work as the basis for the capstone project.

This is all new and a work in progress. It is important to have clear discussions with your capstone supervisors to understand exactly what s/he will be looking for.  Some are going to be traditional and only want an academic thesis, whereas others are thrilled to be able to accept something else.  Some see their courses as incubators, whereas others do not.  Just talk to them.  It will all work out.  This is designed to make life more flexible and easier—not more stressful!

Our current second-year students will be the pioneers for the Capstone Projects, and I look forward to hearing about some innovative project formats.

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There are the traditions that take a generation to grow.  And then there are Fletcher traditions, which can establish themselves in the blink of an eye.  Such is the story of thesis haikus.  Scroll back one year to an unusual suggestion from one student to others that they summarize their theses as haikus.  Fletcher thesis haikus share the ancient Japanese poetry’s three line (seventeen syllable) format.  What Fletcher “thes-kus” lack in seasonal imagery, they make up for in variety and creativity.  So here is a sample of 2011 thesis titles and related haikus, submitted by students to each other at the prompting of Elspeth Suthers, whose example sets the tone:

Elspeth Suthers
Corruption and Ethnic Tensions in Georgia and Kyrgyzstan — Reconceiving the Citizen-State Relationship In the Former USSR

Kyrgyzstan. Georgia.
Governance not good for me
Stalin’s ghost laughing.

Suzanne Andrews
Savings Groups in Agriculture Projects: The Challenge of Mixed Incentives

Savings groups are great
Everyone wants a piece –
Try leaving them alone.

Vanessa Corlazzoli
What we know and don’t know about the effectiveness of Gender Based Violence Programming in Bolivia
To stop violence
Men: change your cultural norms
Nothing else will work.

Elise Crane
Bridging the Void: Social Media’s Potential to Transform Intergroup Relations in Fractured Societies

Media divides
Societies are broken;
Can e-Forums mend?

Andrew Daehne
Hip-Hop and Politics in Senegal: The Power of a Movement to Mobilize Through Music

Hip-hop, politics.
Would Senegal please stand up?
Rap, vote with your beat.

Jacqueline Deelstra
Citizen Monitoring of Government Service Delivery: Using Mobile Phones to Amplify Citizen Voice and Enforce Accountability. A case study of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda
Government neglect
People need water, teachers
SMS can help?

Eduardo Garcia
Business Savvy or Tech Savvy? Comparing uptake and returns of Business Skills Training versus Technical Skills Training

gen biz=1
generate tech=1
regress wage biz tech.

Ida Norheim Hagtun
Humanitarian Action Powered by SMS — What Are the Ethics and Accountability Implications of Using SMS to ‘Crowdsource’ Humanitarian Needs Assessments?

You gave them a say.
Now they expect proper aid.
Are you ready yo?

Trevor Keck
Blurring the Lines: When does a Civilian Lose Protection under the Laws of War
Who is a civilian and who is a combatant?
Nobody knows.
But target civilians, and you may end up at the Hague.

Laura Kuhl
From a Culture of Disaster Response to a Culture of Adaptation: Addressing Flooding and Climate Change in Honduras

Disaster response
Climate change adaptation
Time to transition.

Kimberly Lyon
Linkage or Leakage? The Jamaican Hospitality Sector’s Demand for Locally Produced Food
Small farms, big hotels.
Jamaica, no problem mon.
We import seafood.

Althea Middleton-Detzner
Corporate-Community Relations and the Role of Nonviolent Action/Civil Resistance:  The Case of Freeport-PT Mining in West Papua, Indonesia
Blockades Shut Freeport
How does company react
to People Power?

David Reidy
Who Are Those Guys? Improving Spoiler Typologies and Analyzing Motivation, Consent, and New Warfare Actors for the United Nations

Is it a spoiler?
Or perhaps insurgency?
Aren’t they the same?

JR Siegel
The Diffusion of Off-Grid Solar PV in Rural Bangladesh

Bangladesh PV
Energy dearth solution?
For the rich, it seems.

Kelsi Stine
A State of Inequality: Confronting Elite Capture in Post-conflict Guatemala
Poor Guatemala
Your corrupt elites hoard land
No peace for Mayans.

Aaron Strong
Tackling Bunker Fuel Emissions: The Evolution of Global Climate Change Policy at the International Maritime Organization

Maritime Low Down:
Bunkers Burning; Climate Change
Shipping Ain’t Ship-Shape.

Sara Van Wie
Child Victims of Grave Crimes and Violations and Their Experiences of Remedy and Reparation in Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone
Reparation for children
Access?  Not so much.

Cheney Wells
The role of remittances in Cuba’s private sector expansion: A shift in Cuba’s remittance landscape from traditional consumption purposes to productive investment use

A fresh pair of sneaks
Got Family in Miami
Show me the money!

Colin Wood
Mozambique and the Perils of Megaproject-Led Economic Development
Aluminum plant
World Bank Mozambique scheming
But where are the jobs?

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In a move of inspired creativity last week, second-year MALD student Kirstin Ellison challenged her fellow soon-to-graduate thesis-writing peers via the student email list:

Fletcher, I’ve got to tell you — my thesis is killing me.  Just now while composing my title, I happened to notice that it clocked in at a ridiculous 17 words.  The words of our esteemed Professor Perry came floating back to me — “cultivate pith!”  After all, whose advisor wants to read a wordy, boring thesis?  With this in mind, I decided to rework my thesis into a more condensed and verbally-frugal format.  Yes, Fletcher, I rewrote my thesis as … a haiku.  Why use 17 words to say what 17 SYLLABLES can cover just fine?

And thus started one of the longest email sequences I’ve ever read, with student after student appending an addition to the collection.  Here, for the first time on a blog, are Fletcher Thes-kus (thesis haikus).  A representative sample, with the poet’s name and thesis title included.

Caroline Andresen
Title:  “’Where Are Your Peacekeepers Now?’  The Protection of Civilians from Threats Posed by Armed Groups in Eastern Congo and Afghanistan”
Taliban, congo
Stop killing civilians now
Oh, wishful thinking

Hilde Berg-Hansen
Title:  ??
Three thousand words in
I still don’t have a title.
Iran, Elections

Maren Christensen
Title:  “Judicial Reform in Afghanistan:  Towards a Holistic Understanding of Legitimacy in Post-Conflict Societies”
Building Rule of Law
Legitimacy Lynch Pin
Calling all Afghans

Jamie Lynn De Coster
Title:  “Profiling Pirates: Exploring Somali Piracy in the Context of a Collapsed State”

Somali pirates
Are people too. Yet, a threat.
What should we do?  YARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR

Julia Doehrn
Title:  “‘Seeds of Terror’ or ‘Poppies for Peace’? – The Impact of Illicit Economies and Drug-Trafficking Networks on Post-Conflict Stability”

Seeds of terror, huh?
The money flows upwards though.
Stop corruption – now!

Kirstin Ellison
Title:  “Hamas’ Use of Female Suicide Bombers:  A Case Study in Militant Groups Reinterpreting Women’s Roles in Jihad”

Women in Hamas
Sometimes, they blow themselves up.
Sometimes, they don’t.  Why?

Kent Fogg
Title:  The Accession of the Western Balkans to the European Union:  The Conditionality of Sub-Regionalism”
Balkans were broken
Quick!  Get them in the EU
Or maybe, not quick

Amanda Gardner
Title:  “Police Reform and Non-State Armed Groups in Post-Conflict Iraq and Bosnia: Accountability versus Effectiveness?”
Police, post-conflict
Stop hurting, start protecting
Chase away armed groups

Joshua Gross
Title:  “The Fog of Peace: Comparing U.S. and UN Approaches to Conflict Management in Nepal”

Die feudalist die!
So, so sick of retrograde
ideologies

Courtney Kemps
Title:  “More Than Just Credit: A Case Study of Vocational Training Workshops Offered by a Microfinance Institution in Peru”

Give women credit
Then teach them to make ice cream
Does this really work?

Christine Martin
Title:  “Strategic Management of Technology-Enabled Development Projects”
Tech is really cool
Increased voice for citizens
Please manage it well.

Fabian Olarte
Title:  “An Evaluation of Colombia’s Security and Economic Revitalization During the Uribe Administration. What does the future hold for Colombia?”
Uribe’s Yucca
FARC’s Arroz con Frijoles
Santo’s for dessert?

Viviana Rivas
Title:  “The Stagnant Mexican Automotive Industry: Drawing Lessons from Other Automotive Industries”

Mex Car Industry
You are screwed. Can you learn?
Probably not. Ugh.

Nina Tandon
Title:  “Defaulting Treaty Obligations: How the Lack of Clarity in U.S. Domestic Laws Contributes to Noncompliance”

We make agreements
We never intend to keep
Though other states weep

Elli Tsiligianni
Title:  “Flying Greece Sky High: Marfin Investment Group Sets Eyes on Olympic Airlines”

Onassis founded
Government mismanaged
New flag in the sky?

Bapu Vaitla
Title:  “How Good Change Happens: The Politics of Child Undernutrition in Brazil and India”

Big people, listen:
Food is for the smallest ones
Nurture your nature.

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