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Bush School Conducts First Capstone Project for International Client

January 16, 2015

Students and Professor from the International Capstone research project

In the fall of 2014, nine students from the Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University, traveled to Germany to present research findings to their capstone client, Bosch Stiftung. The capstone, entitled “Looking Eastward: Enhancing Trilateral Relations: Germany, the US, and China,” was coordinated by faculty member Dr. Gabriela Marin Thornton.  Thornton received a grant of 13,100 euros from the Bosch Stiftung to fund the capstone work.  This capstone project was the first Bush School capstone with an international client.  The students conducting the research were Brooke Whitenburg, Ryan Gillespie, William Schwennsen, Susan Stallings, Daphne Hiatt, Stephen Theulen, Josh Kutz, Rex Rhyne, and Arwin Rahi.

Capstones at the Bush School are designed to test the knowledge and abilities students have developed through their previous classes and experiences.  Each project requires strong teamwork, careful research, writing ability, and often great ingenuity in identifying ways to approach an issue or find a solution.  Bosch Stiftung, a German foundation known for its work with the natural and social sciences, represents the first international client for a Bush School capstone. Brooke Whitenburg, Class of 2015 and a member of the Bosch Stiftung capstone, said the international aspects of the project brought its own set of unique challenges.

“From managing deadlines across a seven-hour time difference to understanding and lowering cultural barriers, our capstone team developed an advanced skill set that will provide each of us with an established platform from which to conduct international relations in the future,” Whitenburg said.

The Bosch Stiftung capstone was specifically focused on enhancing trilateral relations between Germany, the US, and China by answering research questions related to the Asian pivot and power transitions toward Asia.

“Coined by the Obama administration, the Asian pivot is a switch in US foreign policy from the Atlantic area toward Asia,” said Professor Thornton.”  Europeans want to know what the consequences of the pivot mean for Europe, and more broadly for transatlantic relations.  Our project contained five parts: the impact of the Asian pivot on transatlantic relations, a conference on trade policy, a symposium on entrepreneurial education, a conference on global pandemics, a professional fellowship on sustainable urbanization, and use of Gantter [a web-based project planning tool] to help implement projects. The projects were developed in order to foster better cooperation among the US, Germany, and China.”

The capstone group left for Germany on December 6 and spent two days after arrival finalizing their research and rehearsing their presentation.  They presented their findings to Bosch Stiftung on December 9.  Prior to their presentation, the group was treated to lunch at the Foundation and was given a tour of the Bosch Mansion.

“Presenting to an international client in a foreign country provided the capstone team with the opportunity to have the project evaluated from a primarily German perspective,” Whitenburg said. “This fostered dialogue that enabled both the capstone team and the Stiftung personnel to gain valuable insight into each other’s programs and goals as well as strengthen a transnational, professional network that can be expanded in the future.” 

Members of the capstone and Professor Thornton agree that the capstone was an enriching experience and a great success from an academic and professional standpoint.

“All indications are that the capstone was a success, and I hope we have laid the groundwork for further collaboration with the Robert Bosch Foundation,” said Professor Thornton.

 

Bush School Dean Ryan Crocker was particularly proud of the student’s dedication to their studies and said it reinforces the Bush School’s reputation as a premier international policy institution.  “I received stellar evaluations of the presentation at the Bosch Stiftung.  I congratulate Dr. Thornton and her students for an excellent job.”

 

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