If you are an emergency manager and you haven’t asked this question, you are missing out on something wonderful for yourself and your agency.
First, a review of the ongoing discussion in the Higher Education community about the difference between training and education. I’m written about this before (here and here and here), and spoken quite vigorously about the difference with colleagues. The explanation I like best comes from a journal written in Spring 2000 by a professor in Mechanics and Aerospace Engineering at THE Ohio State University:
"It’s the different between know how and know why. It’s the difference between, say, being trained as a pilot to fly a plane and being educated as an aeronautical engineer and knowing why the plane flies and then being able to improve its design so it flies better.”
In Higher Education, what brings together knowing how and knowing why is a Capstone Project:
- It is the final project before a student graduates, the opportunity for students to integrate the knowledge they have gained into practice.
- It is planned to be intense and comprehensive. Students work with agencies or businesses to plan and implement a project that that represents a contribution to the practice of emergency management.
- Projects can be almost anything: developing a new program, writing a grant proposal, creating a community program, develop a training curriculum and manual
Where I teach, a Capstone Project takes three semesters. One semester to research potential ideas and narrow the focus into an abstract, one semester to implement the project and write a research paper, one semester to present and defend their Capstone Project to a faculty committee.
My courses this semester revolve around supervising Master’s degree students working on their Capstone Projects. These students are primarily mid-career emergency responders looking for promotion, or the opportunity to get into something different. They want to graduate, get their master’s degrees and move more fully into this profession. Their backgrounds and interests are varied and the projects they build are just as varied.
I don’t know an Emergency Manager who can’t use some help in researching and developing ideas for their agency or office. If this sounds like something you are interested in, this is what to know:
- A Capstone Project is NOT the same as an internship. Students need guidance, not supervision. Most of the time, these are students who already have a background in some part of Emergency Management
- These are two semester projects, one semester to plan and one semester to execute. They are narrowly, but comprehensibly, focused on answering a single research question.
- In today’s environment, Capstone Projects can be online. With Skype and Google Docs and IM’s and Sharepoint, it really shouldn't matter where the student -or the emergency manager - is located.
Take a look at the FEMA Higher Ed College List. Contact a program and tell them you are interested in working with a student on a Capstone Project. See what happens.
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