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Graduate Capstone Highlights: Strengthening the Manchester, NH, Fire Department

Graduate Student
Making a difference in our community

When finishing a master’s degree, most programs include a capstone, which is a research paper or project that represents the culmination of concepts and knowledge learned throughout the entire program of study. At Granite State, often students develop a project that focuses on his or her workplace, which presents an opportunity to integrate and apply what you’ve learned in a real-world scenario.

Earlier this spring, more than 25 graduate students presented their capstone research and projects to their family, friends, faculty, and staff. These projects help streamline operations, explore best leadership practices, and in many cases are already making a positive difference in our community.

Meet Brendan!

Brendan recently earned his M.S. in Leadership and used his graduate capstone project to help increase postsecondary education among members of the Fire Department for the City of Manchester, New Hampshire.

To begin a career as a firefighter, most attend the fire academy or pursue an associate degree in fire science or fire detection which covers the strategic and tactical aspects of the job. On an ongoing basis, firefighters attend regular training throughout the year, maintain certifications, and benefit from rich, on-the-job experience gained from working alongside veteran firefighters. However, there are still some gaps.

We do a very good job at training people to do the job, but we don’t do a great job at succession planning.

With low employee turnover and a focus on the hands-on aspects of the job, this leads to an environment that limits access and exposure to the important administrative function of the fire service which left unattended, could leave future leaders unprepared.

In his capstone, Brendan examined trends in leadership development to see how education can address these gaps so the fire service can remain a progressive, highly effective organization.

In his research, he explored other municipalities that have incentivized education and how these concepts could be applied or modified to fit the needs of the fire department in the City of Manchester. He also identifies how education could serve a more personal need to the career trajectories of firefighters.

People don’t stay at the fire department as long as the used to because the physical requirements of the job. Firefighters used to retire when they turned 65 and today, they’re leaving much earlier. These firefighters need a “plan B” and if they don’t have an education, the options are slim.

Brendan’s capstone project is already being implemented. The fire department is exploring incentives that will encourage firefighters to earn a bachelor’s degree, which in turn will support the growing needs of the fire service. Ultimately, Brendan’s capstone will contribute to even stronger service and emergency response in the City of Manchester, benefiting the entire community.

Choosing a graduate program and not sure which one will be the best fit? Use our comparison guide, M.S. Undecided, to help make your choice!

Click here to download M.S. Undecided:  a guide to select the right graduate program