Student Spotlight: The Gap Between Research & Administration

Last semester, eight MPA students completed a Capstone Seminar. The Capstone requirement provides an opportunity for students to apply skills developed throughout the program to a research project of interest. Our Student Spotlight features a retrospective look at Concurrent MPA/MES student Lucy Davis’ journey through the MPA program and her interesting research on bottlenose dolphins.

Throughout my time at Georgetown College I delved deeply into the natural sciences, studying environmental science and chemistry. It wasn’t until I worked for a cancer lab studying environmental contaminants that I noticed gaps in communication, management, and understanding between natural science researchers and public administrators and policy makers. The researchers at my lab were unable to adequately communicate their findings to policy-makers and were almost uninterested in the management required to administer decisions resulting from the science. This experience inspired me to pursue a degree that would provide me with the tools to help close this gap, leading me to pursue the Concurrent Environmental Studies and Public Administration program (MES/MPA) at the College of Charleston.

The Concurrent program at the College of Charleston initially harnessed my interest of pursuing a career in the non-profit sector, with a focus on natural resource management. Now in my last semester of classes, the MPA program has provided me with essential knowledge of non-profit budgeting and financial management, organizational leadership, and strategic policy and decision-making. This program coincides perfectly with the MES program where I have learned about the science driving natural resources, environmental policy, and research methods.

For my master’s thesis, I am studying the age of sexual maturity for female bottlenose dolphins in South Carolina and the management strategies in place to help protect their population. For my MPA Capstone course, I examined the major stressors that impact the health of bottlenose dolphins: increased development, commercial fishing, and direct human interaction. I then evaluated the different laws and regulations that are in place for each stressor at the federal, state and local level. I incorporated an assessment of their enforcement strategies and mapped out where the knowledge and enforcement gaps persisted. My Capstone project resulted in a revised management plan to help close these gaps and employed a level of collaborative governance that increased the efficiency of all regulations and management strategies that are currently in place.

My thesis project combines my passion for administration and public communication with natural science and deepens my understanding of the communication and management disparity between scientists and administrators. I believe this program has supplied me with the knowledge and training to address this gap in the field. The MES/MPA concurrent program allows each student to mold their education to fit their specific interests and is lead by a diverse faculty that advise each student’s individualized path. The malleability of this program and the incredible faculty members have more than adequately prepared me for the natural resource communication and policy field that I hope to pursue.

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