Capstone Projects

Environmental Studies students major in a wide range of fields across campus, and their senior year Capstone Projects reflect that breadth and scope. At the end of each year, students share their capstones in a symposium-style event, where we also get to celebrate the excellent work they have done! Below is an archive of many such projects, compiled from recent years of student work.

ENST Minors 2021

Once again, this year’s class showed remarkable resilience and dedication to their work, concluding their studies during an unprecedented virtual year. Despite this, the culminating capstone projects were outstanding, covering a wide array of environmental issues and collectively representing a hopeful sign of transformative potential. Here are excerpts from these truly excellent projects:

Title: “Energy Grid Analysis in the European Context: The Supergrid and Microgrids” >> Zachary Allen, a Government major in the College, wrote a paper on the “European Super Grid,” a plan to develop a massive energy grid to connect participating countries. The paper explores the strengths and weaknesses of the grid, and specialization of energy sources with it. 

Title: “Climate Change, Environmental Degradation, and Refugees” >> Hallie Bereday studies Psychology in the College. For her Environmental Studies capstone project, she produced a sixty-page paper (a version is available here (new window)) on the “multifaceted nature of displaced people in a modernized world,” focusing on the Rohingya in Myanmar and Bangladesh and the people of Tuvalu in the Pacific Islands and New Zealand. 

Title: “Profile of a Tree” >> For her capstone project, English major Kathryn Blanco undertook an ambitious and poignant profile of a single tree (which she called “Tili”), and in doing so illuminated an intricate web of histories and connections. As her study concluded, “if humans and trees are to coexist peacefully in the city, we must learn to treat our street trees as the neighbors they are.”

Title: “Global Connectivity & the Commons: An Analysis on the Relationship between Place, Identify, and the Environment” >> Melanie Diaz, a Culture and Politics major in the SFS, focused her project on the connections between people, the environment, choices, and agency. Melanie interviewed six individuals from different backgrounds about their relationship to place and the environment, and compiled common threads and teachings into an audio artifact and presentation. 

Title: “A Rose” >> For his capstone project, Alberto Espiricueta, inspired by his Environmental Studies course “Ecotopian Visions,” wrote a short story following a girl in a futuristic community that exists without policing, where the unhoused are cared for, and resources, though scarce, are shared. The story is “an ode to [his] community of Southeast Los Angeles and the environmental justice advocates who reside [there].” It envisions a world beyond capitalism and war: an ecotopia of sorts. 

Title: “Funding Relocation as an Adaptation Strategy to Coastline Erosion: Indigenous Alaskan Villages” >> Maya Gibbs wrote an academic paper analyzing climate-induced relocation of Alaskan Indigenous communities. The Arctic is warming at an alarming rate, and Maya’s paper analyzes how a just and equitable response to climate change in the region might be implemented, particularly how to fund and support relocation for coastal indigenous communities. 

Title: “Combating Climate Change Misinformation” >> Using her experience as a Government major, Charlotte McCarthy’s capstone project came in the form of a policy memo, addressed to the current EPA administrator. The memo detailed the importance of, and strategies for, combating climate change misinformation in the general public. 

Title: “The Importance of Optimism in Environmental Journalism” >> Lauren Pyjar, an International Politics major in the SFS, used her experience working at Eat.Blue, an online educational platform about ocean conservation, as the basis for her capstone project. Lauren wrote a paper describing her experience writing articles for the site, highlighting the importance of positivity and optimism in writing about environmentalism and conservation: “Change is inspired by hope, not fear.”

Title: “Protect our Waterways” >> Paul Rothrock, an Economics major, created a website about his relationship to the waterways of the Pacific Northwest, and the importance of protecting them. The site includes stunning photographs of the northwest and its water, along with information on water pollution and protection. 

Title: “Recommendation for the Passage of a Modified RECOVER Act” >> Liza Roberts studies Chinese and Government along with Environmental Studies. For her capstone project Liza wrote a paper detailing the need for comprehensive investment in and development of innovative local recycling systems to tackle the pressing issue of waste management in the United States. 

Title: “A Look Into Sustainable Investing” >> Anne Stonecipher, a student in the MSB studying Finance and Operations and Information Management, wrote a paper on the emerging world of sustainable investing, outlining its importance from an environmental and a business perspective. 

Title: “Biden in the First 100 Days” >> For his capstone project, Alandro Valdez used his studies in both Environmental Studies and Government to produce six detailed infographics outlining environmental policies enacted and planned by the Biden Administration in the first 100 days in office. The in-depth and well-designed infographics cover the international climate actions, land conservation efforts, environmental justice policies, plans to halt oil and gas extraction, and more. 

ENST Minors 2020

This year’s graduation was unlike any other, occurring under the specter of the coronavirus pandemic and its associated implications. The Capstone Symposium was held via Zoom on April 15, 2020, but using that platform didn’t diminish the impact of these excellent projects! {Note: Melissa Zheng, a Management major in the MSB, graduated in December 2019, and for her ENST capstone participated in a research project with a faculty mentor under the auspices of the International Food Policy Research Institute.}

Title: Financing the Future of Clean Energy & Technology: An Examination of the Funding Gap & An Analysis of Alternative Investment Vehicles 

Julia Choi, an Economics major in the College, wrote a paper on the world of investments and finance when it comes to clean energy technology. In her paper she outlines the challenges clean energy companies encounter in financing their projects. She then dives into potential new investment vehicles for the funding of clean energy, and examines the role of both the public and private sectors in clean energy innovation. 

Title: “The Pear Tree”

Emily Arnold, who focused her studies at Georgetown on English, used her passion for words to explore how humans connect to physical space and how this shapes our perception of our environment. Her capstone project consisted of two distinct projects: “The Pear Tree”, a 52-page collection of poems; and “Tree of Letters”, a sculpture of a tree made of wire and paper mache with recycled pages (pictured above). This project succinctly captures Emily’s studies for the last four years; she reflects, “‘The Tree of Letters’ considers the relationship between trees and written language and comments on the chosen form, poems, to convey the ideas in my Thesis.”

Title: “Discarded Narratives”

After years of interest in the environmental impacts of medical waste, JUPS major Maddy Rice decided to do something productive with single-use medical products. Her project, “Discarded Narratives”, aims to “reclaim the discarded stories and objects of the medical industrial complex”. She worked to collect medical waste and create art that had an impact on viewers and shifted the current modes of storytelling. Her first project was a bamboo garden constructed entirely of discarded medicine bottles, and she intends to continue her work. You can learn more about “Discarded Narratives” here

Title: Climate Change and Environmental Degradation

Lucy Stebbins, a government major with a background in Catholicism, found inspiration from Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ and decided to delve into the environmental perspectives of the Church. She analyzed a variety of environmental challenges we face today, paying special attention to how these issues disproportionately affect marginalized communities. She also focused on the commitments the Catholic Church has made to care for the planet and how these tie into the fundamental values of the Church, and synthesized the two by selecting passages from the Pope’s encyclical: “Today, however, we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” — Pope Francis, Laudato Si’ 

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Title: “Environmental Education through Play and Learning for Grade R Students in South Africa”

Jinia Sarkar, a Human Science major in the SFS, completed her capstone project while studying abroad in South Africa. For the community engagement portion of her program, Jinia volunteered at Ikaya Primary School, planning lessons and organizing activities for the students. Throughout her time there, she designed and painted an educational play area for the community with environmental themes.