How the government screwed me out of a Capstone project

By: Carol Blyskal

It’s my second semester of senior year at Goucher College. I am taking have two capstone classes, and three two hundred level classes that I’m taking in order to get my course requirements out of the way. I’m working odd jobs on weekends, and I’m searching for full-time employment on top of that which means that I submit between five and fifteen applications each day. While most of my undergraduate career had been relatively manageable as far as course load is concerned, this semester the amount of work I need to complete is hitting me wave after wave and it’s taking everything I have to keep my head above water. In order to get through this semester I knew that I would need a strict schedule laying out my work so that I could keep myself organized and on top of deadlines. However, everything changed when the government screwed me out of a research project.

You may be wondering how exactly this situation arose. One of my capstone projects was to look at job satisfaction rates among rangers in the National Park Service; it would rely on physically traveling to two parks and interviewing with these rangers. However, in January it was announced that the Trump administration would be freezing funding for both the NPS and the EPA. Because I was so busy with trying to stay on top of my own problems, this fact did not fully sink in until one evening when I reached out to my contact in the NPS to arrange a meeting and was told that no one at the park had been rehired for the year as of yet.

The panic set in. I had spent three months developing a strict plan for that project during my methodologies class only to have it crushed in a matter of minutes. I also felt panic for this park ranger who had been so kind and helpful to me when I met with him that summer in my quest to look for salamanders. I knew, however, that the best thing to do was not to allow myself to panic for long but to pick myself up and keep going. I knew that my contact would be doing the same thing.

After a booze-fueled freak out and many frantic emails to my adviser I was able to develop a new plan within twenty-four hours that was even more feasible than my last plan had been. While this plan does not involve the National Park Service (or interacting with people in general), I needed to adapt in order to ensure that I wouldn’t get beaten down. In a way, I think that many in the National Park Service and Environmental Protection Agency are doing the same. With the emergence of rogue social media and grassroots work these dedicated people are not simply letting the new presidential administration bring them down and are instead finding ways to work around the obstacles they are being faced with in order to persevere. This is something that is extremely admirable.

I have just started analyzing data for my new capstone project and am in the works of collecting data for the other. My push to persevere proved useful because not only am I keeping on top of my work as we enter into the fourth week of the semester, but I just had my first wave of job interviews as well. While I have not heard back from my friend the park ranger about how things are faring on his end, I will not forget this experience and the determination that he and his fellow rangers are showing. It’s incredible to see how the human spirit can prevail through times of turmoil, and I hope that I can continue striving to be as determined and defiant as these fine men and women.






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