For those of you who aren’t familiar with the program, Carolina MPA requires each second-year student to devise a research question that relates to public administration. The students then design and carry out research projects to address their individual questions, presenting their results at the end of the school year. In short, a capstone is like a thesis.
That doesn’t sound too bad right? After all, I’m a graduate student. I signed up for this.
However, coming up with a solid research topic is a lot harder than I anticipated. Although I may have exaggerated my anxiety with that whole “blood-curdling scream” thing, this capstone business definitely daunts me. It’s tough thinking up a good topic—especially one that I’m willing to commit to for the next ten months.
Enter Sarah Kate and Chris, my super supportive supervisors.
A few weeks ago, Sarah Kate and Chris asked me what I wanted to get out of my internship experience. Amongst other things, I said I wanted to get a good capstone topic. This was—and is—true. However, I didn’t think Sarah Kate and Chris would do anything with that information, aside from tuck it away in the back corners of their brains.
So, imagine my surprise when they scheduled a meeting with me last week to discuss capstone ideas. By that point, I had already been percolating for a few weeks and, despite my general apprehension, I felt like I had a few good topics brewing upstairs. But I really needed some feedback before I could go any further. The meeting couldn’t have come at a better time.
At the meeting, I gave Sarah Kate and Chris an outline of my research ideas, most of which involved nonprofit sustainability efforts. I was pleased that they liked what I had to say. I was even more pleased when they started to help me tease my rough concepts into more manageable projects. They gave me some new ideas too. For example, they suggested I might want to look at how local governments affect organizational sustainability efforts (see my previous post on The King’s Daughters Inn to see why.) Perhaps best of all, they even offered to help me throughout the upcoming school year (e.g., setting me up with clients for interviews, providing me with case studies, giving me feedback.)
I haven’t settled on a particular research question yet, but I’m getting there. My sit-down with Sarah Kate and Chris helped a lot and gave me a much-needed confidence boost. Better still, this experience has made me feel even better about my internship. It’s always nice when a supervisor takes an interest and lends a helping hand.