During their final semester, students will complete a Capstone Experience designed to bridge theory and practice. Students may choose to complete either a substantial research paper or participate in a client-based, team practicum project.
Practica provide opportunities for students to build on the substantive and methodological knowledge they have acquired during the previous semesters of the program while addressing real-world challenges of real-world clients. Practicum projects are designed to help students develop strong research, oral and written presentation skills, and skills related to consulting, such as client relations, project management, and team work.
Practicum students will work in teams on specific projects for one or more clients, such as The U.S. Army Africa (USARAF), The International Housing Coalition, and the International City/County Management Association.
Working in this client-based setting, students will learn how to:
- Research and conceptualize a problem, define the scope of the project, and break it down into workable components
- Work effectively as a team member by identifying key tasks, sharing responsibility for the project, and ensuring all deadlines are met
- Establish a positive working relationship with a client by understanding the client’s needs and managing expectations
- Plan and execute interviews for key stakeholders and subject matter experts
- Deliver an organized, articulate presentation to the client
- Prepare a professional, cleanly written document that identifies the client’s problem and offers thoughtful analysis and recommendations
Students work with a faculty member who mentors them throughout the duration of the practicum project.
Substantial Research Paper (SRP)
Students who are interested in conducting their own independent research project or plan on pursuing a PhD in the future should consider completing an SRP for their Capstone Experience. The SRP is an independent research project designed to allow students to integrate and apply knowledge from their studies into a final scholarly project. Students who undertake an SRP project develop their expertise in an area they have studied, while demonstrating their ability to conduct analytical research or policy analysis. SRPs must be based on a thesis-driven argument that can be satisfactorily answered in approximately 50 pages.
There are two types of SRP:
- Academic SRP — This type of SRP seeks to answer a question of interest to the student and the scholarly community. Academic SRPs may apply a theory to a new set of cases, test explanations between different historical periods, or seek to explain the causes or consequences of a particular issue. Students are expected to produce original research critiquing or contributing to the literature.
- Policy-Driven SRP — This type of SRP focuses on a particular policy problem. Such policy SRPs may ask what policy should be in an area given a set of goals or constraints, why one policy was pursued but not others, or survey a range of solutions to a particular problem. Students are expected to apply a dialectical lens to policy analysis to produce original research that contributes to the alternative approaches located in the literature.
Students will work with a faculty advisor who will guide them throughout the duration of their SRP research, from the initial concept proposal all the way through the final draft.
For more information on the other components of the program, visit the curriculum page here.