Archive for workshop

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.

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.

Workshops and Capstone Selection

It is that time of the year when second year SIPA Students start working on their final project — also known as the “workshop” (for Economic and Political Development (EPD) concentrators) or “capstone” (as is the case of students for all other concentrations) and continue for the remainder of their last semester here.  The final project give students a chance to refine their skills and knowledge and make a positive contribution to the world. The projects also provide valuable experience and contacts for post-graduate employment.

For many of the students, this is one of the most important reasons why they chose to come to SIPA.  There is a lot of excitement in our building surrounding the projects  —  There is endless discussion about the possibilities that lie ahead.

Beginning this year, all SIPA MIA and MPA students are required to participate in either a capstone or a workshop in order to graduate.  You may view this year’s capstone project options here.   Small teams of students will work on cutting-edge issues facing real-world clients and deliver an actionable report at the completion of the project.

Laura Agosta, a second year MPA student concentrating in Economic and Political Development (EPD) is very optimistic about the impact that this experience could have on her personal and professional life. “I believe that this is the chance I have to put into practice the theoretical knowledge I am learning at SIPA. Also, EPD workshops often involve traveling abroad to Africa, Asia or Latin America, this is an excellent opportunity of getting to know a country that you never imagine you would be working in!” says this student from Argentina.  Laura is going to Tanzania to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of a child-protection program.  EPD workshops are projects in which students gain practical experience by engaging in on-going cutting-edge development efforts, often involving country fieldwork. They work in teams with a faculty supervisor and assist a variety of clients on a wide array of assignments in international development. This year’s EPD clients are located in countries such as Nigeria, Tanzania, Georgia, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil and Nepal.

Andrea Bustard is a second year student concentrating in Urban and Social Policy (USP). She is working on a capstone project. These are also projects in which students are organized into small consulting teams and assigned a substantive, policy-oriented project with an external client. Clients include public agencies – from the local to national level – international NGOs, multinational organizations, and major firms in the private sector. Andrea highlights that this “is an exciting time that has allowed me to identify what skills I would like to develop and match it with my field of interest”.

Alex Villarino, a recent SIPA graduate worked with the New York City Mayor’s Office of Operation in spring 2011. The goal of his SIPA team was to develop a risk analysis and assessment of which factor contributed to detecting the possible problems of catch basing clog and street flooding using the system that the city already has on 311 Consumer service. They elaborated an informatics model that now allows the city to use relevant information such as population, altitude, precipitation and the regularity of cleaning of the city in an effort to detect the areas that are more likely to flood. They  even created an index of leaf control from the census of trees in the city! He says that overall, “It was a very exciting and applicable project with a concrete outcome.  The team was fantastic, everybody worked together and the faculty advisers were very supportive.”

No matter where you go or which project you are involved, most of SIPA students and graduates agree that this is a unique experience that can be very valuable for their future professional life.  And is only one of the many exciting opportunities that SIPA offers future development practitioners.  For a full view of workshop and capstone project opportunities and the sponsoring clients, visit our website.

EPD Workshop Notes

Workshops are a very popular part of the SIPA experience and many of our students are currently knee deep in their projects.  Last week Lacey Ramirez submitted a workshop post and now here another submitted by Beatriz Guillen.


As you have read in previous posts, the workshop project is one of the most exciting things while you are at SIPA. The Economic and Political Development Workshop is a five month consulting project on development issues. We work with a broad variety of clients: from UN agencies, to developing countries’ governments, NGOs, etc.

In a nutshell, the workshop is structured as follows: you do much of the research and planning in New York and then travel twice to the country to do some field work.  Half of the group travels during the winter break, and half during the Spring break.

By last week, almost all the teams had returned from their destination countries after their first trip. Sierra Leone, Uganda, Sri Lanka, Kazakhstan, Chile and Jamaica were among the 15 different countries where students traveled. These days everyone is eager to tell their stories about adventures abroad. The EPD department organized a session with all the workshop participants, where we could share not only pictures and fun stories, but also challenges and lessons learned.

We were amazed at the great lengths that people who traveled went to in order to stay in contact with the part of the team that stayed in New York: from climbing to a tree to reach some cell reception, to driving around Addis Ababa to get an Internet connection to Skype with the rest of their team members.

Below, there are some pictures from the team that traveled to Jamaica and from one of the teams that traveled to Ethiopia.

The new market at Kingston

In a rural village in Ethiopia

"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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