SIT Capstone Seminar set for Aug. 7-10

Announcement Date: July 28, 2023   |   Research, SIT Graduate Institute

Students completing master's degree programs at SIT Graduate Institute will present their final capstone projects Aug. 7-10, 2023, ahead of SIT's annual commencement on Aug. 12. Times listed below are Eastern U.S. daylight time. Members of the public are invited to attend these virtual presentations. Please email [email protected] to RSVP and receive a link.

Monday, August 7, 11:30 AM-1 PM

Marcella McNerney, MA in Climate Change and Global Sustainability

The U.S. Government’s Global Food Security Strategy and the Effectiveness of Agriculture-led Growth through the Perspectives of Climate Change and Sustainability 

The United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Global Food Security Strategy Fiscal Year 2022-2026 addresses food security in developing countries. The U.S. Global Food Security Strategy set forth by USAID lays forth a strategy for increasing food security in 12 targeted low-income and developing nations. It is crucial to examine how well the USAID policy does this with consideration of climate change, sustainability, and socioeconomic well-being, given the fact that climate change impacts and predictions are now affecting food systems at all stages, from growth through production.

Monday, August 7, 11:30 AM-1 PM

Mary Thibodeau, MA in Humanitarian Assistance and Crisis Management

Decolonizing WASH Practices Between National Policies and International Standards:  A case study in Tanzania

The international community has developed guidelines and standards for the maintenance of water and sanitation (WASH) in states from the end of the 20th century to present and have often been criticized for their lack of contextual adaptations in the standards that states are expected to implement universally. The research explored how international standards on WASH have applied decolonized methods of interventions to guide the development of culturally relevant national policies. Tanzania was chosen as a case study to conduct a comprehensive review of the states’ integration of international standards within their policies through a decolonial perspective. Tanzania was found to be a model state with strong policies and campaigns that incorporated international standards through culturally adjusted practices that focus on the behaviors of Tanzanian communities. This research contributes a greater understanding to the field of the necessity for international organizations to utilize decolonized practices through recognizing cultural differences in aid projects, and to highlight how a state can successfully incorporate the standards from the international community.  

Monday, August 7, 2-3:30 PM

Frederick Bentley, MA in Sustainable Development Practice

Equity in Urban Green Space: How access to urban green space is addressed in Albany, New York  

The crisis of climate change-driven disaster and instability is affecting humans all over the world, especially vulnerable populations in urban settings. This crisis exacerbates social inequalities in cities that exist from a legacy of discriminatory policies. This research centers local perspectives and policies on access and utilization of green spaces as a vital social and green infrastructure within the city of Albany. This research serves as a case study for the city of Albany as well as a framework for other municipalities in addressing the importance of providing equitable access to green spaces in an urban environment.

Monday, August 7, 2-3:30 PM

Aaron Thompson, MA in Sustainable Development Practice (Hybrid)

Responding to Disproportionate Skin Cancer Rates in Adult Men Aged 18-60

Skin cancer is a deadly disease that kills significantly more men than women every year. At the same time, women are more than twice as likely to apply daily sun protection factor (SPF) than men. This research study explores how key stakeholders within the skin care industry have responded to the data showing increasing disparities between male and female skin cancer rates. Findings indicated that most men were consciously unaware that skin cancer affected them at higher rates that it did women. By increasing visibility of the issue, dismantling harmful gender stereotypes, and conducting further intersectional research, men will be more likely to understand the relevancy of good skin protection behaviors, and institute preventative measures to mitigate their overall risk of dying from skin cancer.

Tuesday, August 8, 9-10:30 AM

Anna Long, MA in Conflict Transformation

Using Community Organizing Best Practices to Re-Design the DART Organizers' Institute

This capstone project explores three approaches to community organizing from three different scholar-practitioners. It begins with the father of grassroots organizing, Saul Alinsky’s, and his neighborhood- and congregation-based approach, followed by Alicia Garza, the founder of the international Black Lives Matter movement. It ends with author and organizer adrienne maree brown’s Emergent Strategy approach. This paper will synthesize all three approaches, ultimately identifying four recommended approaches to community organizing: power, motivation, emotion, and centering impacted voices. The four recommended approaches will be used to evaluate the new organizer training (Organizers’ Institute) for the Direct Action and Research Training (DART) Network, and then to re-design the initial week of the Organizers’ Institute.

Tuesday, August 8, 9-10:30 AM

Lucie Lagodich, MA in Climate Change and Global Sustainability

Sustainable Energy Distribution Methods at the Azraq and Za’atari Refugee Camps, Jordan: A refugee perspective

The looming climate change crisis requires research and development of mitigation strategies to protect those most vulnerable. This study uses semi-structured interviews to capture the refugee perspective of the successes and shortcomings of large-scale solar farm projects installed at the Azraq and Za’atari Syrian refugee camps in the west and north of Jordan, respectively. Results suggest that at both camps the current renewable energy systems are deeply flawed with limited hours with rampant distrust among camp residents in the management of the solar farms. Women, students, and those afflicted with illnesses are the most impacted by the energy limitations but all refugees face difficulties that are exacerbated by the region’s increasing temperatures which are linked to climate change. Azraq and Za’atari serve as case studies to inform future research on solar energy systems in temporary settlements to prepare for the imminent climate refugee crisis.

Tuesday, August 8, 11 AM-12:30 PM

Deborah-Julie Katsuva, MA in Diplomacy and International Relations

Aesthetic Suffering: The danger of poverty porn and single stories of catastrophe

Although "poverty porn" has received a lot of attention recently, its actual effects on individuals are still not fully known. This study examines how international organizations' use of poverty porn affects how successfully immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa integrate into American society. This study emphasizes the importance of collecting individual perspectives by analyzing the long-lasting effects of painful and sensationalized images representing African calamities on the conceptualization of sub-Saharan Africans. We learn important things about how poverty porn has affected immigrants' distinct experiences in the United States from first-person narratives of Congolese Americans.

Tuesday, August 8, 11 AM-12:30 PM

Joseph Fox-Sowell, MA in Humanitarian Assistance and Crisis Management

The Impact of Exercise and Sports on the Psychosocial Well-Being of Syrian Refugee Youth

Psychosocial well-being is a concept that encompasses mental health and the psychosocial health of an individual. Recreational sports and physical activity have been used to promote health and overall well-being of individuals. The main aim of this study is to understand the impact that exercise and sports have on the psychosocial well-being of Syrian refugee youth in Jordan. The results conclude that there is a positive connection between sports and exercise and how it affects and benefits the psychosocial well-being of participants who actively and routinely participated in these activities. This study hopes to contribute to the advocacy of incorporating sports and exercise into mental health programs and interventions for vulnerable youth populations. It is recommended to include females and do further research into how Syrian youth refugees can advance in their sports journeys.

Tuesday, August 8, 2-3:30 PM

Jennifer Tolman, MA in Diplomacy and International Relations

Navigating Real World Conditions: M&E in USAID Projects

This capstone asks the following question: What shared challenges do USAID evaluators face when evaluating programs in the same region on similar topics? This research aims to inform this question through a comparative review of six evaluations published in the past five years of USAID projects in Latin America on the themes of rule of law, governance, and democracy building. Evaluations review program goals and actual outputs to determine effectiveness of a program and develop lessons-learned for future programming. However, this evaluation process occurs in real-world settings that inevitably present challenges to data collection. I find that the primary challenges faced by evaluators in the sample include insufficient program documentation, difficulty contacting stakeholders, political upheaval, and concerns regarding the accuracy of data collected. This paper contributes to the field of monitoring and evaluation by exploring on a small-scale the real-life USAID evaluation methods and challenges.

Tuesday, August 8, 2-3:30 PM

Jona Block, MA in Humanitarian Assistance and Crisis Management

No Integration Without Employment: Asylum-Seekers in Serbia and their search for work

Employment is traditionally viewed as an integral component of refugee integration. Previous research suggests that for refugees, employment benefits psychological well-being, provides economic security, and develops social networks. The current research explores the dynamic between integration and employment for asylum-seekers and refugees in Serbia. It seeks to understand the difficulties these displaced populations face finding employment and why they remain in a country which is traditionally viewed as a transit country into the European Union. Due to waiting periods imposed by the Serbian government, and a general institutional lag, asylum-seekers are unable to fully participate in the Serbian labor market when it would benefit them most. Those who do find stable employment are most likely to remain in Serbia and build a life. The current research discovered that the reciprocal relationship between integration and employment in Serbia is currently fractured. Only by shifting public policy and investing in refugee integration can this relationship be mended.

Wednesday, August 9, 9-10:30 AM

Sebastian Chavez, MA in Diplomacy and International Relations

Masters Abroad

The research focuses on the perspective and experience of students attaining a master’s degree abroad. The overall study is to answer the following questions: 1) What is the reasoning behind gaining a master’s degree abroad? 2) What kind of impact does a master’s degree have on the identity of students?  3) How might a master’s abroad experience aid international relations? Among the key findings, specifically, students’ main incentives ranged from career development in wanting to advance career objectives or real-world experiences of living and adapting to a new cultural environment. Following identity transformation, students experienced self-growth or discovered new identity traits and passions they did not know existed. Overall, this study represents the vital importance of masters abroad to graduate students who are on their way to making a global impact

Wednesday, August 9, 11 AM -12:30 PM

Jarred Haynes, MA in Sustainable Development Practice

Public Participation in Alaskan Subsistence Management: Rurality and “meaningful” participation

In Alaska, subsistence – the harvesting of natural resources – is a way of life for some communities. The Federal Subsistence Board oversees the Federal Subsistence Management Program. One of its responsibilities is to determines areas as subsistence or non-subsistence based, in part, on whether subsistence is a “principal characteristic of the economy, culture, and way of life” Federal policy grants these communities priority in the taking of wild resources. This research asks what subsistence means to a non-rural, mixed community of Native and non-Native hunters and fishers in Southeast Alaska, what pressures they experience on their livelihoods, and the potential that a rural determination and subsistence priority have to sustain quasi-rural livelihoods. Using a rural livelihoods framework and interviews with members of the Ketchikan community, this research will present community perception of their livelihood resilience, risk, and opportunities.

Thursday, August 10, 9-10:30 AM

Brenda Belcher, MA in Intercultural Service, Leadership and Management

An Analysis of Communication-related Information and Services Offered to Parents of Deaf Children in Puerto Rico

The period from birth to five years is a critical stage for human language acquisition, and inadequate access to language during this period can cause far-reaching negative effects. Young deaf and hard-of-hearing children face barriers to acquiring language through speaking and listening techniques, and their parents must make consequential decisions about what communicative strategies to pursue for their child. In Puerto Rico, information and support around communication approaches flow to parents from a variety of sources, including the island’s local Early Hearing Detection & Intervention system, three dedicated schools for the deaf, and a variety of community-based organizations. This study sought to analyze the information and services made available to parents, including whether they are adequate or balanced with regard to sign- vs. speech-centered approaches.

Thursday, August 10, 9-10:30 AM

George Kasch, MA in Sustainable Development Practice

Common Pool Resource Management and Conflict Resolution: A case study of two self-governed irrigation schemes in Ntcheu, Malawi

Contrary to conventional common-pool resource (CPR) theory – where it is presumed that strong central states must be the primary actors in regulating the commons – self-governed CPR theory is a method that enables the appropriators themselves to be the primary actors in designing and managing a given CPR. Irrigation systems are one on the most common examples of CPR sharing. Using Elinor Ostrom’s theory on self-governed CPR management and her Eight Design Principles, I examine the mechanisms by which two neighboring small-scale irrigation schemes in rural Malawi manage and govern common-pool water resources to contrast intra-scheme functions and the presence or absence of inter-scheme conflict and collaboration. Ultimately, this study demonstrates the coordination opportunities amongst neighboring schemes and local external authorities; specifically, in market integration, crop diversification and joint-scheme capacity building so other self-governed irrigation schemes can be more resilient to climate change, combat food insecurities and have enhanced conflict-resolution tools for self-governed water systems in rural Malawi. 

Thursday, August 10, 11 AM-1:30 PM EDT

Sarah Rauf, MA in Diplomacy and International Relations

Opportunity Discrimination: Resettlement efforts made by NGOs in the United States

Social identity plays a key aspect in life. This research tests whether homogeneity between refugees and their host communities correlates to the immigration process and resettlement success. The analysis helps form a conclusion that people want to help those who look like themselves before those who appear more foreign. This is related to the central theories of social identity and prejudice stemming from stereotyping. The analysis concludes that there is a level of positive correlation to homogeneity making immigration easier for certain in-groups of people. The data and conclusions from this conduction can be further used in future research of social identity and discrimination refugees face.

Thursday, August 10, 11 AM-1:30 PM

Kerri Pike Knapp, MA in International Education (Hybrid)

International K-12 Schools Seeking U.S. Accreditation: An analysis of the rationales involved in earning accreditation through the Western Association of Schools and Colleges

The international K-12 school market is growing fast, and new international schools are opening every year. Hundreds of those international K-12 schools seek out accreditation to help validate their institution’s authenticity. Accreditation allows potential students and families to trust that the education provided is legitimate according to a set of principles and standards provided by the accreditation organization. Colleges and universities, particularly those in the United States, where thousands of international students strive to be accepted, typically require students to matriculate from an accredited school. With this market growth comes a need for accountability, and therein lies accreditation. The United States has four regional accreditation organizations who accredit both domestic and international schools, but this study focuses on just one organization, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). This qualitative study explores various rationales provided by participants using Grounded Theory as the method and institutional theory as the theoretical framework.