The Capstone Project is a comprehensive analysis of an issue facing the client - a key decision, a critical policy, a new challenge, an emerging opportunity, or a new program or initiative. Students are responsible for identifying their client, and for working with the client to define an appropriate topic and terms of reference, which provides the flexibility for the student to pursue a client and topic directly related to their area of concentration.
Working closely with the client, the student will prepare a comprehensive analysis of the issue, combining relevant economic, political, institutional, managerial, legal, or other analyses, depending on the nature of the issue, alongside options and recommendations for action. Over the course of the year, students can expect to make oral presentations on the prospectus, extended outline, draft and completed projects to the professor, peer group, client, faculty advisor, and other faculty members. Akin to a professional consulting assignment, students will make a formal presentation to the client at the conclusion of the analysis, and prepare a professional 40-page analysis of the policy, management, or institutional issue. A non-proprietary version of the paper will also be prepared that the student may use as an example of his/her work for future employers.
The precise content of the report, and the types of analysis included, will depend on the nature of the issue and the needs of the client, but in most cases the final report will include the following:
- Background, context, and description of the issue
- Assessment of broader development context into which the issue falls
- Selection criteria for screening alternatives
- Quantitative analysis (economic/financial, cost-benefit, statistical, multivariate regression)
- Policy and/or institutional analysis
- Political and/or legal analysis where appropriate
- Multiple options, alternatives, and recommendation for action.
Students will work with a great deal of independence, guided by the client, the professor and a faculty advisor (acting as a mentor). In most cases students will work individually. More than one student can work for the same client on related issues. In some circumstances where appropriate students may be able to work in pairs, following discussion with and subject to approval by the professor.