After a refreshing few weeks off, SPEA’s students have returned to campus and started another semester of classes. Almost all of the second year students are enrolled in a “capstone” this semester. These special courses allow students to apply everything that they have learned in their previous courses in order to work as a class on a major project. The projects are generally designed to benefit a particular group of interest. For example, one of this semester’s capstone courses will be working with the IU Office of Sustainability in order to come up with ways to improve sustainable computing across the campus. Another capstone has the students working with the United Way of Monroe County to provide policy recommendations based on a previous assessment.
As an MPA/MSES student, I chose to fulfill my capstone requirement by enrolling in Risk Assessment. Our class will divide into groups and examine different sites that are experiencing both environmental and human health hazards. During the first week of class we talked about some different possibilities for projects including some in Chicago, Missouri, and even one not too far from Bloomington, IN. Everybody was able to find at least one project that appealed to them and we all hope to get started as soon as possible. Personally, I’m hoping to be able to work on the project near Bloomington because it will give me the opportunity to work on a project locally and hopefully we will be able to help make the site safer.
Group work is nothing new for SPEA students, but the capstone courses provide us the opportunity to work together on unique projects for an entire semester. They are the perfect chance for students from different concentrations to share the knowledge they have acquired in their different classes throughout their academic career at SPEA. Students with previous professional experience are also able to share their unique experiences and insights with the rest of their group. There are different roles for everyone to play within each group and everybody is expected to contribute as best they can.
As usual, we expect this semester’s capstone courses to challenge us while serving as the culmination of our studies at SPEA. An academic challenge like this is the perfect transition to the professional projects that we expect to work on after graduation.