News from the Bush School

Bush School Students Travel to Cambodia for Capstone Research

May 02, 2013

May 2, 2013

A team of four students from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University traveled to Cambodia in February as part of their Capstone project evaluating a community-based micro-financing program.  The advisor to the Capstone project was Dr. Leonard Bright, an associate professor in the Master of Public Service and Administration (MPSA) program at the Bush School.

The Capstone’s client is CommunitiWorks (CW), a nonprofit organization that seeks to catalyze community development by facilitating investments in community-based micro financing and education.  CW operates on the philosophy that community-based organizations, established by local leaders who understand the unique problems of their region, offer the best chance for long-term economic change that will benefit both local and regional societies.  CW believes this type of program has a greater chance of sustainability than solutions imposed from outside the region.

The Capstone group evaluated the impact of CW’s community-based micro-financing strategies in Cambodia by developing evaluation questions, collecting and analyzing data, and reporting the findings and implications of their research to CommunitiWorks.

The Bush School students were in Phnom Penh for most of their time in Cambodia, since the communities they evaluated were within the city.  They visited schools run by a nonprofit organization, and met with community leaders to get a sense of the state of education, the economy, and the health of the community.  Those visits were followed by door to door surveys asking questions to evaluate overall living conditions.  The goal of the surveys was to form baseline measurements for CW to use in future program evaluations.

Ashley Spradlin, a second-year MPSA student and a member of the team, commented on how the work was conducted, saying, “Our client is relatively new in the country, and we initially met some barriers as the communities weren’t aware of CW’s work.  Overall, it was a very successful experience; and the reports we compiled are impressive and show great promise,” she added.

Spradlin also said that the opportunity to see the temples at Angkor Wat was a highlight of the trip.  “We saw amazing and beautiful things, and it was an experience unlike any other.  Even though they are living in abject poverty, the people are just warm and friendly.  The culture is obviously quite different, but people are so pleased to be free to live, even if their situations are dire,” she added.