Archive for capstone project

Why I chose the MIA degree program

There are several advantages to the Master of International Affairs program, and applicants choose the program for a variety of reasons.  Read More →

A Capstone Experience: Land Development in Ethiopia

Hi everyone. I realize that now—the decision waiting period—is a stressful time. To lighten the mood, I thought you might enjoy reading about some of the exciting things our PAs have been up to. So I wanted to take the time to share with you a story from our newest PA, Tinsley Corbett, MPA ’15, in which she shares her Fall Capstone experience, which just wrapped up last week.

SIPA workshops, or capstones, apply SIPA students’ practical skills and analytical knowledge to a real-world issue. Small student consulting teams, under faculty supervision, are assigned a substantive, policy-oriented project with an external client. Each team produces an actionable report and an oral briefing. Workshops give students a chance to refine their skills and knowledge, make a positive contribution, and build a network. Traditionally, most SIPA Capstone Projects are completed during the final spring semester, but a lucky and ambitious few may opt to complete it during the fall, like Tinsley did. Here’s her experience with with investment group Ethiopia SouthWest Holdings.

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Capstone in Jordan

The SIPA Capstone Project serves to help SIPA students utilize skills they’ve learned in the classroom to deal with real life problems. This year, SIPA partnered up with Better Work/International Finance Corporation and International Labour Organization (ILO) to assess the Better Work Jordan Workers’ Center targeted at garment workers’ in the Al-Hassan Qualified Industrial Zone (QIZ) in Jordan.  What is a QIZ you ask? It’s an enclosed area with factories surrounded by factory-owned dormitories that the migrant workers’ use during their stay in Jordan. Most of the workers never travel outside the QIZ – even when they are there for 3+ years.

The idea of the center came out of need for migrant workers’ to have a stronger sense of community outside their daily life. The center provides recreational activities along with training programs (English and Computer skills).

Our team will be working on collecting data to create a baseline and sustainability study based on its first month since opening.

Day 1/2: Travel

The first two days were brutal. Flying into Jordan takes approximately 15 hours – 12 on the plane and roughly 3 hours layover. We missed our connecting flight from London (Heathrow) to Amman, Jordan. Luckily, we were able to catch the next flight a couple of hours later. After 24 hours on the road, we finally made it to our hotel. Tough day – but well worth the time and effort.

There’s also a six hour difference, you can only begin to imagine the jetlag…


 Day 3: Workers’ Center

After many months of visualizing the center through client class and website information, we finally get to visit the Workers’ Center. The workers’ center is approximately 75mins north of Amman, Jordan. During our van ride, we find out that the workers’ center is open – we are excited to know that we will be able to conduct our first round of interviews during the first day.

We are surprised to find the workers’ center is a lot bigger than we had initially imagined. It has a computer lab with 27 Dell Laptops, a classroom for English Instruction, a kitchen and canteen and a multi-purpose room.

View of the dormitories from Workers’ Center

View of the dormitories from Workers’ Center










I sat through an English class during the day – most of the students in attendance were from Madagascar. I was impressed by the teaching methods but also by the students’ participation. They were happy to be there and even more excited to be learning a new language so foreign to them.  The students were asked to recite the alphabet, some of them even stood up and sang it! During the class, I noticed that the students were helping each other with the pronunciation of the letters – hardest letter of the alphabet to pronounce in the room “S”.

English class

English class

Day 4: Petra, Jordan

Today is our only day off during our trip. We decided to go to Petra, Jordan! Petra is about a three hour ride south from Amman.

E4 E5 E6 E7

 So many camels!

Day 4: Workers’ Center

We spent the morning in the Better Work office learning more about the programs that they offer besides the Workers’ Center. Better Work does training with factories in different QIZ’s on sexual harassment but also financial literacy training for workers.

In the afternoon, we headed off to the Al-Hassan QIZ. We collected data through our survey and conducted two focus groups with Malagasy workers. The team was able to get useful information for the workers’ center. We will use the surveys and focus group information to get create a report that will help the Workers’ Center with future activities and management.

We also set up some sport games outside the Workers’ Center – some volleyball and soccer.

A pretty good day.  It’s late – better head off to bed.  Thanks for reading.


Posted by Eder Gaona, MPA 2014 and just back from the Middle East.  A little snippet from Eder’s capstone trip.

a capstone experience

Instead of turning in a master’s thesis before graduation, SIPA students work on a capstone project and turn in an action plan for a client.  Projects vary in scope and depth.

Mariana Iturriaga Cossio shares her capstone experience before she collects her diploma on Wednesday.

During this semester (my last one at SIPA!), I worked on my capstone project “Energy Investment in Criteria in Fragile Emerging States – The Case of Libya”. Libya has the largest proven oil reserves in Africa but during the 2011 revolution oil production suffered a near-total disruption. Although production began to recover by fall of that same year, the future of the Libyan oil sector is highly dependent on the country’s security and political stability. Thus, the project’s objective was to assess the security and political risk conditions under which Libya can attract new investment in the oil sector. Our client was Afren Plc, an independent oil exploration and production company, with a portfolio extending into 12 countries, most of them in Africa.

My team was composed of six other second-year SIPA students from the International Security Policy (ISP) and Energy and Environment (EE) concentrations. Everyone was super committed and had valuable contributions throughout the project. For most of the semester, we met twice per week: on Mondays with our faculty advisor –Professor Adam L. Shrier  – and on Thursdays by ourselves to discuss our findings and next steps. Over the course of four months we conducted desk research with telephonic interviews, which were held both on and off the record with experts in energy issues, Libyan politics, finance and security.  You can read our full report here

Mariana I capstone cover image

After an intense semester, and spending more than seven hours per week in my capstone project, I am really happy and proud with the result. We delivered concrete results and findings on one of the most challenging but at the same time promising oil regions in the world. Personally, the capstone turned out to be a great opportunity to combine the two areas that I am most interested in – international security and oil markets – from a more professional and practical perspective.

Workshops In Development Practice

Workshops are an integral part of academic and professional development at SIPA.  Workshops are group projects completed with an outside client.  At the end of each year student workshop groups participate in public presentations where they share the results of their hard work.  Information on these workshops and reports from previous years can be found on our web site.   Below is the invitation that went out this year.


This year, the student teams in SIPA’s Workshop in Development Practice have been working this with clients in over twenty countries on innovative projects involving the intersection of international development with human rights, corporate social responsibility, humanitarian affairs, media, international trade, entrepreneurship and private sector development.

The Workshop in Development Practice is co-sponsored by the Economic and Political Development, Human Rights, and International Finance and Economic Policy Concentrations, the International Media, Advocacy and Communications Specialization, and the Humanitarian Affairs and UN Studies Programs.   This year’s Workshop clients include Acumen Fund (India), Bihar Rural Livelihood Promotion Society (India), Catholic Relief Services (Democratic Republic of the Congo), Endeavor (Chile), Family Health International (Ethiopia), Initiative for Policy Dialogue (Ghana, Nigeria & Uganda) Institute for Research and Debate on Governance (Cameroon), Instituto Palmas (Brazil), International Trade Centre (Peru & Sri Lanka), Jitegemee (Kenya), Millennium Challenge Corporation (Ghana & Morocco), Millennium Cities Initiative (Nigeria), PepsiCo South American Foods (Venezuela), UN Iraq Information & Analysis Unit (Jordan),UN Peacebuilding Fund (Comoros), UNDP (NYC), UNICEF (Malawi), University of São Paulo working with Alcoa Brazil (Brazil), Women’s Political Resource Center (Georgia), and Women’s Refugee Commission (Liberia).

To view the program in PDF format, click here.


"The most global public policy school, where an international community of students and faculty address world challenges."

—Merit E. Janow, Dean, SIPA, Professor of Practice, International and Economic Law and International Affairs

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