Students enrolled in the Integrating Seminar – the culminating course for the Master of Arts (M.A.) in Global Development and Social Justice – during summer 2019 completed capstone projects that cover a range of global issues and devise creative and innovative solutions to those problems.
“The Integrating Seminar is a unique experience for our students,” said Associate Professor Basilio G. Monteiro, Ph.D., who teaches the seminar course. “It is a moment of collective learning, where peers review their colleagues’ work and offer comments, make suggestions in extensive discussions, and position their work in a global context. It is also a moment of building community among the promoters of social justice in their development work, a hallmark of the Global Development and Social Justice program.”
St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean Jeffrey W. Fagen, Ph.D. attended the final class for the capstone seminar at which the students presented their projects. “Each project was a detailed analysis of an economic or social issue using qualitative or quantitative research methods, concluding with concrete recommendations,” he said. “Although these could have come from just about any university, what made them special was that each used the frameworks of Catholic Social Thought and Integral Human Development.”
Desmond Asamoah, the student speaker for the 23rd Annual Rome Commencement Exercises, focused his capstone project on his home country of Ghana. His project, “Healthcare of the Urban Poor and Inhabitants of Informal Settlements in Ghana: A Case of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area,” addresses healthcare challenges arising from rapid urbanization in Ghana. Using data collected from a crowded settlement in Accra, Mr. Asamoah analyzed existing healthcare practices, infrastructure, and coping strategies for ill health. He determined that infrastructure and preventative healthcare in the area is poor and recommends a socially inclusive policy that would provide better living conditions for residents.
Mr. Asamoah holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Professional Studies in Accra. During his M.A. studies, he completed a research internship at the Istituto Superiore di Sanità in Rome, Italy. He has been accepted to an Ed.D. program at Niagara University with a full scholarship. Mr. Asamoah was the student speaker for the 2019 Rome Commencement Exercises.
Mavuto Banda also focused his capstone project on his home country, Malawi. His project, “Analysis of Factors Influencing Household Improved Cookstove Use Choice in Mulanje, Malawi,” studied factors impacting the use of improved Chitetezo stoves. According to Mr. Banda’s research, Malawi is increasingly becoming an energy-stressed country due to its relatively small landmass, rapidly-growing population, and heavy dependency on biomass for energy needs. To reduce pressure on forests and indoor air pollution, the government of Malawi and its development partners began promoting the use of Chitetezo stoves, which are made from clay and produced by local women’s groups. Mr. Banda’s study affirmed the benefits of the improved stoves and identified challenges in adopting their use, which included access to firewood. He recommended that households should be encouraged to maintain private homestead woodlots in order to overcome this challenge.
For his capstone project, Friar Joseph Kwame Blay, OFM studied the impact of galamsey, artisanal mining, in Ghana. This form of mining has been particularly destructive to Ghana’s natural environment and has depleted its water resources. Fr. Blay argues that corruption is the principal underlying factor for galamsey’s destruction.
Fr. Blay, a citizen of Ghana, currently lives in Rome, Italy. He is the General Delegate for Justice, Peace, and Integrity for the Order of Friars Minor Conventual.
Courtney Del Buffa Falconieri’s capstone project, “Nourishing Sustainably the Underserved in Niger,” takes a holistic approach to improving the living conditions, environment, and economy of Niger, which is the lowest rated nation on the Human Development Index. Ms. Falconieri focuses particularly on addressing malnutrition in Niger, which occurs widely due to environmental factors and political conflict. She recommends the implementation of keyhole gardens, raised garden beds in the shape of keyholes that are built using local materials, to facilitate the cultivation of nutritious food.
Ms. Falconieri is Program Associate for The National Organization of Italian American Women (NOIAW). Previously, she coordinated the finance and operations of a Manhattan market research firm, managed the office of a Brooklyn real estate firm, and freelanced as a writer in Italy. She holds a B.A. in Film Studies and Production with a minor in Italian from Hofstra University.
Virginia Kamau focused her capstone project on access to primary education among urban refugees in Kenya as a driver to sustainable development. Through her research, she found that the key factors influencing primary education access among refugees in Kenya include language barriers and poverty. She concluded that access to primary education has an impact on the sustainable development of a nation and recommended that host governments like Kenya’s adopt measures to address language barriers among refugees.
Ms. Kamau is currently a United Nations Volunteer (UNV) working in UNHCR Westlands as an Eligibility Assistant. She holds a B.A in Community Development from St. Paul’s University, Kenya.
Richard K. Malengule’s capstone research concerns improving access to quality education for sustainable development in his home country of the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to Mr. Malengule, the level of education in a country is correlated to the level of development and therefore improving access to education will also facilitate development. He recommends that education in the Democratic Republic of Congo shift in emphasis from literacy and numeracy toward learning environments and new pedagogies to increase social justice, equity, and global solidarity.
Mr. Malengule has been accepted to an Ed.D. program at Niagara University with a full scholarship.
Lara Moskowitz, who resides in Buffalo, NY, conducted her capstone research on the need for menstrual education and sanitation reform in India. Menstruation, a major taboo in India, is a heavily stigmatized condition in many rural communities. The lack of education, communication, and healthy sanitary methods for managing menstruation has caused women and girls to lag behind their global peers in education, health, and employment.
Ms. Moskowitz is Assistant eBook Coordinator for Rosen Publishing Group. She holds a B.A. in English from the University at Buffalo.
Grace Nduma’s capstone project studies the impact of youth unemployment on sustainable economic growth in her home country, Kenya. The study addresses youth unemployment as a global crisis and offers recommendations for this problem. Ms. Nduma found through her research that rapid population growth, corruption, and poor industrialization strategies contribute to youth unemployment in Kenya. Based on her findings, she recommended that the government should develop clear policies to curb corruption, establish internship opportunities for graduates, offer start-up capital to small enterprises, and implement a competency based education structure.
Under the mentorship of Associate Professor Roberta Villalón, Ph.D., Mr. Ochiba, a resident of Kenya, completed a project entitled “Psychosocial and Educational Development of Children Living with Their Imprisoned Mothers in Kenya.” The purpose of the study was to investigate the factors that affect the psychosocial and educational development of children living with their mothers in prison in Kenya. Mr. Ochiba’s research shows that the rate of incarceration, especially for women, has increased in recent years throughout SubSaharan Africa. This poses a particular challenge for women with children. Kenya allows children to live with their mothers in prison under certain conditions, and Mr. Ochiba’s research addresses the developmental issues those children face. He proposes a community-based approach to caring for the children of incarcerated women that would help empower women and their children and families.
Mr. Ochiba holds a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Nairobi. A former English teacher, he is now involved in development projects through the International Movement of Catholic Students.
Makisha Singh, who resides in Brooklyn, NY, focused her capstone project on educational gender disparity in India, particularly in two states with the highest levels of poverty and gender inequality, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. She used the Integral Human Development model and Catholic Social Teaching as theoretical frameworks to analyze the work of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and international organizations in addressing these issues. Through her research, Ms. Singh identified three main barriers to educational gender equity in the region: infrastructural factors, cultural factors, and economic factors. She recommended that any strategies for improving education in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar must address all three of these barriers and that there should be a particular focus on infrastructure to ensure that schools have the capacity to educate female students.
Ms. Singh is currently employed as an office administrator for Global health Strategies. She holds a B.A. in Political Science, Sociology, and Human Rights from the University of California, Davis.
Natasha Wabwire’s capstone project, entitled “Traditional Justice Systems and Social Justice for Survivors of Sexual Violence,” explores how the application of the Traditional Justice System (TJS) works for survivors of sexual violence in the Kimana area in Loitoktok, Kajiado County, Kenya. Ms. Wabwire, who lives in Kenya, sought to understand a preference for TJS in the region and identify barriers to social justice for survivors of sexual violence.