M.S. in Global Affairs | The Capstone Project

Global Affairs Graduate Students Create Sustainable Transport Documentary

Samuel Lissner and Peter Rose traveled to three countries on two continents as part of their M.S. in Global Affairs capstone project on sustainable transportation, which was the culmination of their graduate studies at the NYU School of Professional Studies Center for Global Affairs (CGA). The capstone project engages CGA students in the analysis of a global issue and allows them to explore it from multiple perspectives, to ultimately find a solution.

As Lissner and Rose traveled and studied environmental and energy policies as they relate to transportation, they were able to compare transit systems in three distinctly different locations: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Tel Aviv, Israel; and Navarra, Spain.

"The M.S. in Global Affairs emphasizes the importance of global perspective in exploring new solutions to challenging international problems," said Lissner. "Exploring different countries over the course of a month definitively enhanced our view of the advancements that have been made in sustainable transport."

Not only did Lissner and Rose include extended multinational travel as part of their capstone project, they created a documentary film about it in addition to submitting a written thesis.

The focus of the pair’s research was Masdar City, which is located outside of Abu Dhabi, and is being designed as the world’s first carbon-neutral city. Here, government officials, business leaders, and sustainability advocates led Lissner and Rose on tours of construction sites, assembly lines, and projects in development—visits that have been, for the most part, limited to heads of state and members of the U.S. Congress, as well as a handful of other prominent individuals. One of the highlights of the excursion was a tour with the city’s head of transportation, in a pod car that resembled those seen in science-fiction films. The electric-powered, rail-less, all-glass cars arrive at set stations via routes determined by sensors in the pavement. The pair also met experts from around the globe at the 2010 World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi.

On the Israeli leg of the trip, Lissner and Rose were told about transportation innovations that had been derailed due to politics and the global economic crisis. The pair ended their exploratory voyage in Navarra, Spain, which generates nearly 80 percent of its energy from renewable resources and is home to many Spanish automobile factories. Here, they met with scientists who were testing wind turbines at the National Renewable Energy Centre (CENER), and they learned about local vocational training and community education initiatives.

It took months to prepare for the trip. Lissner, a Harvard graduate, and Rose, a graduate of The American University of Paris, arranged for meetings with three or four stakeholders every day in each of the places they visited. They were aided by their advisor, Clinical Associate Professor Carolyn Kissane, and Divisional Dean Vera Jelinek, who helped them make contacts.

Lissner and Rose plan to share their findings with contacts at the U.S. Department of Energy, the Precourt Energy Efficiency Center at Stanford University, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and others—and hope to show their documentary at conferences and events. “[The project] allowed us to understand firsthand many of the challenges and the strategies behind achieving sustainable transportation," said Rose.

Both Lissner and Rose graduated in spring 2010. Lissner is currently the manager of business development at Power Grid Capital, a renewable energy start-up that develops and finances solar and energy efficiency projects. Rose serves as business development manager at Bullfrog Pest Management, Inc., where he has created a third-party certified green service division; manages the website and all social media platforms; and directs the preparation and the submission of all requests for proposals.