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?