Archive for capstone

Ayanda’s Kisumu Workshop Debrief

Four members of my six-person team and I traveled to Kisumu, Kenya to collect data for our Workshop Project for two weeks this March. Our project was an analysis of the programs of a local NGO, Alice Visionary Foundation Project, that works on women’s economic empowerment through micro-enterprise and group savings and loans programs in Manyatta slum—the largest in Kisumu. We were building off of the research gathered from our January field team (2 travelers then), as well as all our desk research and literature review. While in Kisumu, we spent our spring break interviewing 22 people from all different ages, education levels, and walks of life to understand how they found the NGO, the program they were in, and to learn about their goals for their businesses, their households, and themselves. After an intense week, we took the weekend to relax and explore Kenya; some went to Mombasa to visit the seaside while others stayed in Kisumu to better explore our surroundings. After a restful weekend, we went back to work—this time to interview experts in banks, government, Savings and Credit Associations (SACCOs), and micro-finance institutions, to hear the stories of their organizations and look for potential partnerships that could enable the participants to move from informal loans programs to the formal banking sector. Through these interviews were could map the financial ecosystem of options for these beneficiaries, as well as map their pathway from a neophyte in the program with small financial goals to the more senior participants with more ambitious plans for their business. All in all, though it was an exhausting two weeks, I learned a lot about Kisumu, fieldwork in general, and the process that goes into planning and executing a client-based consultancy.

[Photo courtesy of Ayanda Francis | Workshop Team with our in-country client, Alice Visionary Foundation Project]

My Capstone experience with Barclays Capital

Capstone is a semester-long, mandatory project for Master of International Affairs (MIA) or Master of Public Affairs (MPA) candidates at SIPA. Like most of my peers, I have registered for my Capstone in the final semester. My client is the Public Finance Division of Barclays Capital and I have five other colleagues with me in the team. We are the consultants and our academic orientation at SIPA is either Finance (IFEP) or Energy (EE). We all have a background working for public-sector organizations or private entities that engage in public-sector financial management. I am an MPA candidate, concentrating on EE and my team members are Isaac Rauch (MPA, IFEP), Cathy Chen (MPA, EE), Yidai Zhao (MPA, IFEP), Aly Waleed El Salmi (MPA, IFEP), and Jay Shin (MIA, IFEP). My faculty adviser for the project is John C. Liu, former Comptroller of the City of New York (2010-2013) and former member of the New York City Council (2002-2009). He also teaches municipal finance and public policy in master’s programs at the City University of New York and Columbia University.

Spring 2017 Capstone typically go live a semester before the assignments begin. So I applied for and received my Capstone assignment last fall. This project was my first choice because of my previous professional experience in the sector and my interest in learning more about public-private partnerships in green infrastructure investment. The scope of my team’s Capstone is to conduct an agency-wide research on opportunities for Barclays to provide lending, underwriting, consulting, and advisory services for green bonds to finance public infrastructure in the state of New York. Our first meeting with the client occurred in December 2016, where they briefed us on what they are looking to get out of this project. Coming back from the winter break, my team met with our faculty adviser to assign roles and responsibilities so that we could delve into content research. Currently, we are doing a comprehensive study of federal, state and municipal level agencies and programs in New York, and are reviewing their previous borrowing trends and deals, while identifying opportunities for our client. The research part truly requires a lot of time and constant coordination between client and consultants. But due to the very practical nature of the project, this is a huge opportunity for us to design a deliverable that would add substantial value to our client’s business.

Before starting the project, I was concerned about the workload that a Capstone would entail, and I thought of it much like a part-time job. The final semester is often stressful for graduating students, with the added pressure of job search, in addition to most people having internships on top of everything else. What helped all of us this semester is having clearly defined roles and responsibilities and a monitoring framework to track outcomes and activities. But most importantly, I felt getting comfortable with my team members was crucial since we will be working closely with each other for a whole semester. In that regard, we had a lot of fun taking a personality test (I am supposedly the ‘Virtuoso’!) and sharing our results with each other over drinks on a weeknight. Who says Capstone is all work and no play?

[Photo courtesy of Professor John C. Li | Sadia (bottom right) takes a Seeples selfie with her Capstone team and Professor Liu.]

Capstone Workshop: Promoting Supply Chain Sustainability For The Rio Olympic Games

August 5, 2016, marked the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. This is the first time that a country in South America has ever hosted the Olympic and Paralympic Games. In an effort to learn from the experiences of previous host cities, the Rio Olympics Committee has given strategic focus to the potential social, economic and environmental impact of the Olympics through the creation of the Sustainability, Accessibility and Legacy Team (SAL). During the spring 2016 semester, SAL worked with a team of students, Abir Joshi, Ariel Williams, Jennifer Arias, Jayant Narayan, Mitsushiro Hirai, Supharin Chatthaworn, Shiza Pasha, under the guidance of Professor Kevin Kelly in a SIPA Capstone workshop to assist with analyzing and benchmarking their sustainability efforts.

SAL has a unique opportunity to promote sustainability for the Olympic Games with visible impacts across the pillars of People, Planet and Prosperity. Over the course of the 2016 Olympics, SAL has identified 230 projects to create actionable items and results for promoting supply chain sustainability, as well as unique projects in education and sustainable tourism. These projects and experiences have helped create transferable assets, such as databases, manuals and frameworks, that can be adapted and utilized by entities across the public and private domains far beyond the Olympics.

The SIPA Capstone team worked with SAL to analyze the effectiveness of incorporating sustainability into the Olympic Games, which includes evaluating SAL’s supply chain procurement process, educational programs and tourism initiatives, and then provided recommendations on the strategic transfer plan to disseminate SAL’s sustainability practices for future use by key stakeholders. The Capstone project and work of the Sustainability, Accessibility and Legacy Team will have far reaching benefits not only within Brazil regarding sustainable supply chain practices but also, through the experience of analyzing supply chains from the sustainability lens, presents an exemplary benchmark for global sustainable practices for future dissemination.

Pictured: Rio Olympics Committee headquarters Capstone team meeting with Sabrina Porcher, the Manager of Sustainability and colleagues from the Education Legacy team.

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 →

The Basics Of The Capstone

The spring semester is now underway, and second year SIPA students are being swept up by more than just the Polar Vortex engulfing the Northeast. From finalizing their class schedules to kick-starting their job search to planning their graduation celebrations, second years are busy. But for these students, perhaps the most exciting part of the end of SIPA is the completing the Capstone workshop.

The Capstone is largely seen as the crowning achievement of a long academic journey at SIPA. It is the final requirement for graduation, and is meant to offer real world experience to complement the theories studied in the classroom. Students are placed in teams, and under the guidance of an adviser, help a company or organization solve a pressing problem affecting them. Examples of capstones include work with Barclays Capital, the Brookings Institution, and USAID. Some of the most popular capstones involve overseas work.

As one of the top policy schools in the country, SIPA takes full advantage of its New York City location and attracts world-class organizations and companies for the capstone projects.  This year, SIPA has designed over 50 Capstone Workshops that address a host of policy issues and are of interest to students in all concentrations.

So who benefits from the capstone? The answer is everyone! SIPA students are exposed to high-quality work and are able to test their knowledge acquired during their two years in graduate school. They are are able to expand their networks, build their resumes, and get a sense of the kind of work we would like to do upon graduation. Clients have the opportunity to outsource some of its complex projects to a group of enthusiastic, well-trained graduate students.

"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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