By Alexis Hixson
Every spring semester at the Bush School, International Affairs students complete a capstone project, which consists of assigned groups of four to ten students, a professor, and a professional client. This year, a group of eight International Development and Economic Policy students in Professor Silva Hamie’s capstone was assigned a project with the Athena Research Institute in Patras, Greece, studying wildfire management strategies.
Capstones provide students with the opportunity to gain real-world experience by preparing a deliverable to a client in the world of government, private enterprise, or research. Most students at the Bush School find capstones to be a challenging and rewarding experience. Several students attend the Bush School because it emphasizes this practitioner perspective over a traditional Master’s Thesis.
“Capstone is a great way to use all the skills that you got from your entire Bush career and compile them into one, and it’s also a great learning experience about yourself and how to work in a team,” said Weather Smith, class of 2023
The Greece group was tasked with creating a report on the 2021 Olympia wildfires, which threatened the historic site of the Ancient Olympic Games and the livelihoods of many villagers in the surrounding area. To collect data on the fire, the group traveled to Greece for a weeklong trip to gather information. The trip consisted of multiple days of interviews with emergency management professionals in the region of Ilia, including firefighters, mayoral staff, and government officials. The trip concluded with a free day in Athens for the students to experience some of the history and culture of Greece’s capital.
Students agreed that this trip has been an invaluable experience for their vocational learning.
“I think that students, through their Capstone, when they have the chance to do research in the classroom but also go to the field and connect with the people, individuals, and organizations that are related to their research project, I think that’s pretty amazing having the chance to compare both realities in academia and then go to the field,” said Eddys Gonzalez, class of 2023.
Pictures by Alexis Hixson – Left to right: Students receiving an introductory lecture from the Athena Research Institute. An Aggie ring is proudly on display in front of the Parthenon. Students posing at the Acropolis in Athens.
The trip’s capstone leader, also a class of 2023 student, emphasized the value of capstones:
“I really enjoyed the opportunity to gather research through fieldwork and synthesize this data into a coherent report with our team.”
The group presented the report’s findings to the Athena Research Institute on May 2nd, 2023.