Global Capstone Program

Global Capstone Program: Out of the classroom, into the field

Global Capstone Program

Experience is the best teacher, and Elliott students immerse themselves in skills-based training, putting classroom learning to the test through internships and fieldwork. For graduate students, real-life learning experience peaks in the year-long Global Capstone Program, which requires MA candidates to identify and tackle some of the most pressing international issues of our day.

In teams, students zero in on a challenge, design a research plan, and select a real-world client partner – these have included outfits such as the International Rescue Committee, World Bank Group, Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, and USAID. The result? A viable policy solution, both written and presented at a major conference each April.

“The most rewarding aspect was realizing we were conducting novel research on an issue that each of us cared about very much,” said Lili Martinez, MA ’17, who traveled to Berlin to talk with Syrian refugees there. “Further, we felt we were encouraging credible changes through our recommendations – changes that might positively affect the lives of refugees and displaced people.”

Grants for this kind of international travel are awarded through a highly competitive process. In 2017, for example, 123 students received awards for research in far-flung spots from Colombia to Vietnam.

Many such grants are made possible by members of the extended Elliott community. Recently, Wes Callender, ESIA BA ’76, made a major commitment to the program and explained why.

“If the capstone project provides a career or personal-life enriching experience for a few of the students, I will consider the funding a success. I like to see these young, aspiring professionals have opportunities that I never had,” Mr. Callender said.

Mr. Callender has devoted his career to work in the public and non-profit sectors. He actively advocates for international development and human rights causes, with a particular interest in grassroots movements across Central America. Here, he has directly observed the “critical need for internationally-minded professionals” with firm grounding in practice.

Through its Global Capstone Program, the Elliott School is doing its share to create this important cadre of professionals, educating emerging leaders and providing them with the skills to shape both their careers and a brighter future for the world around us.

Sharon Squassoni

Sharon Squassoni Joins Elliott

IISTP Welcomes New Faculty

The Elliott School welcomes Sharon Squassoni, incoming research professor of practice at the Institute for International Science and Technology Policy (IISTP). A former senior associate for nuclear policy programs at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Squassoni has advised Congress as a senior specialist in weapons of mass destruction at the Congressional Research Service. She has also served in nuclear nonproliferation and policy planning positions at the State Department and at the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. As a member of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Science and Security Board, Squassoni was recently in the news for her role in the Bulletin’s announcement that it has moved its Doomsday Clock to 2 minutes before midnight, citing North Korea’s recent missile tests and the world’s lack of progress in confronting climate change. In addition to her academic credentials, Squassoni is also an accomplished cyclist, musician, and long-time Ashtanga yoga teacher. Read more about Squassoni in a recent Q&A with the incoming professor.

Q: When did you start becoming interested in science?

A: I’m a political scientist who has always gravitated toward technical issues and always really enjoyed working with experts who had technical backgrounds. I’ve been fortunate to work with some terrific physicists, chemists and engineers for decades and more recently, on the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.

Q: What, from your perspective is the greatest short-term and long-term threat facing the US and/or the world?

A: I’ve devoted my professional life to reducing risks from nuclear weapons.  Those pose some obvious short- and long-term threats to the future of humanity.  I’d say, however, that the longer term threat really is from climate change.  In addition, emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and bioengineering will challenge our capacity to manage them in ways that we may not yet understand.

Q: In your your Twitter profile, you are a self-described mom, yogi, cyclist, and musician. Can you elaborate on some of your hobbies?

A: Yoga is a longtime habit and I’ve been teaching Ashtanga yoga for almost twenty years now.  I’d have to say that my favorite poses generally find me upside down and balancing precariously. My favorite place to cycle on the road is out in the Maryland countryside but my true love is cyclocross.  From September to December, you can find me at most cyclocross races within a 50-mile radius of DC.  As for musical instruments, I play the flute and piano and a bunch of other things badly.

Q: What are you most looking forward to about working at GW?

A: I’m looking forward to sharing ideas and experience and research with students and other professors in the Institute and more broadly, within the Elliott School.

GWU Climbs Kilimanjaro

GWU Climbs Kilimanjaro

Leaving on May 29th, 2018 and heading for the top.

Mount Kilimanaro
A group of George Washington University students are fundraising for a trip to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, a mountain more than three-and-a-half miles tall in Tanzania. (Photo: Muhammad Mahdi Karim)

Eighteen students from George Washington University will be taking on the challenge of a lifetime: summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro and raising thousands of dollars for charity. Two Elliott School undergrads are among the group of 18:  Casey Sajna, sophomore, international affairs and global public health, and  Austin Simpson, freshman, international affairs.

Simpson, who is originally from Riverside , California, says he learned of the opportunity through a co-worker at an internship he held. “Kilimanjaro is one of the ‘Seven Summits’, the tallest peak on each one of the seven continents,” Simpson said. “It’s a right of passage that I’ve dreamed of accomplishing. When I found out that I could do it and give back to a charity, it seemed perfect,”

According to GW Team leader Phoebe Elizaga, a sophomore majoring in biology and chemistry, “the whole experience of getting a team together and fundraising with participants who are passionate and excited about the cause has been unreal so far.”

Casey Sajna, from Osceola, Wisconsin, has previous experience tackling high peaks. During a study-abroad experience in Switzerland, she went climbing in the Alps. Now, she is training for Kilimanjaro by “going to the gym and running to try and build up stamina….one thing that I learned from Switzerland is that just training to climb up is not enough. You need to train your muscles to be able to also go down the hill, I know personally; I was really hurting the next day since I had not strengthened those muscles as well!”

The Kilimanjaro journey is organized by Choose a Challenge, a UK-based student-charity-challenge company that each year takes some 1,500 young adults on expeditions, raising nearly $5 million annually for a wide variety of charities. The GW Team will be raising funds for The Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation for childhood cancer. The foundation provides financial and emotional support to patients and families affected by childhood cancer and funds pediatric cancer research.

According to Elizaga, the combination of doing something personally challenging while simultaneously contributing positively to society makes this trip special. “Each and every donation we receive makes a positive impact on the lives of children with cancer. It will be amazing to know that once everyone reaches the fundraising goal, we will have made a tangible difference for those patients and families.” For more details about the GW group’s climb, check out their story on GW Today.

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