See below Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) by students.

 

What is the Capstone workshop?

Capstone workshops are designed to be completed in the final semester of a student’s time at SIPA. The majority of the Capstone workshops are offered in the spring semester.  A small number of workshops are also offered in the fall semester to accommodate graduating students who have not yet taken a workshop.  

What can I expect from my Capstone workshop?

A Capstone workshop is very different from other courses at SIPA in that the project is a live consulting project with an external client outside of SIPA. Like all consulting assignments, it is the job of the team to develop a work-plan and to finalize the scope and the final deliverables of the project. (Although the initial scope and project question is defined prior to the students joining the team, most often once the team begins to delve into the initial research, the team will further refine the project scope). While it is reasonable to expect guidance from the client, it is the job of the team to determine how to achieve the final deliverables of the project. The faculty advisor is there to assist the team in this process.

What is required of participants?

Like all classes:

  • Attendance and participation in class activities;
  • Timely completion of assignments;
  • High-quality work.

Because the success of the Capstone workshop is reliant on the full participation of each member of the team, failure to meet the above criteria may result in dismissal from the project and the receipt of a failing grade for the workshop.

Unlike other classes:

  • Meeting with the client outside of class;
  • Conducting field work;
  • Working out the logistics of the project with clients;
  • Routine group discussions outside of the arranged classtime;
  • The preparation and presentation of professional, high-quality report and final presentation that is representative of SIPA.

How much time each week should be devoted to the workshop?

The average amount of time spent on a weekly basis for each Capstone participant is roughly 8-12 hours per week. However, this will vary by project and by week. Like any project, there will be periods of high levels of work and periods where there will be less work required as the team moves through the work-plan and approaches deadlines for deliverables.

What are the prerequisites for the Capstone workshops?

Each Capstone workshop project has a set of preferred coursework and skills/experience. While graduating students are guaranteed a place on a workshop, students will not be placed on a workshop for which they are not qualified. Students must carefully read each workshop project description with attention to the preferred coursework and skills/experience listed before they apply.

What is the timeline for applications, placement, and registration?

The majority of the Capstone workshops are offered in the spring semester.  MIA and MPA students will apply for apply for a spring project in mid-October 2017 for enrollment in the Spring 2018 Capstone workshops. A small number of fall workshop are available for graduating fall students.  These will be available to view in late April.  Once placed into a Capstone workshop, students will automatically be registered for their assigned workshop. It is not possible to change your workshop selection once you have submitted your application.

How do I fill out the online application for the Capstone workshop?

In order to apply, students must (1) submit a resume as a PDF saved as one’s UNI and (2) complete all of the required fields on the online application. On the online application, students must rank order their Capstone workshop preferences from 1 - 5 (1 being the first choice) and submit a “statement of interest” for each workshop (no more than 1-2 paragraphs). In addition, students must list their relevant coursework, writing the full name of the course (rather than writing the SIPA course number or an abbreviation of the course). Relevant coursework may include courses taken outside of Columbia University.

How should I choose a Capstone?

Select a Capstone workshop which is most aligned with your future aspirations and your background and area of study. You should use your concentration as a guide to workshop selection. Please examine the registration guide to ensure that the Capstone workshops you select do not conflict with another core requirement. Additionally, students must carefully read each workshop project description with attention to the preferred coursework and skills/experiences listed before they apply.

Are there any alternatives to taking the Capstone workshop? May students substitute/waive the workshop requirement? May students create their own projects?

Completion of a Capstone workshop is a graduation requirement for all MIA/MPA students. Students may not waive the workshop requirement or opt to complete an independent study in place of a Capstone workshop.  There are three alternative courses that satisfy the Capstone requirement.  These are:

L8016 S. Public Education Policy Seminar and Practicum (fall & spring course)

MGMT B8597-099: Private Equity & Entrepreneurship in Africa (Master Class).  Please note, for this class all students are expected to travel to Africa at their own expense for up to two weeks during the winter break to conduct field research. Funding is not provided from the Business School or from SIPA for this trip.  

INAFU 8892 - Business & Human Rights Clinic.  

Students who are complete any of these courses will satisfy their Capstone requirement.  Students who have taken any of these courses are able to apply to a Capstone workshop as an elective but they are not guaranteed placement on a workshop team because they have already satisfied their capstone requirement.   

Student may not create their own Capstone workshop project or select their own team.   

Can I participate in more than one Capstone workshop in a semester? Can I take more than one Capstone workshop while at SIPA?

Students may not be enrolled in more than one workshop in a semester. Any student that completes a capstone workshop before the final semester is eligible to apply for a future capstone workshop but will be applying to the workshop as an elective and therefore will only be placed if space permits.  

Are the EPD Workshops in Development Practice open for Non-EPD students? Can I apply for both an EPD and Capstone workshop?

Capstone workshops have been developed primarily for students in Energy and Environmental Policy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, International Finance and Economic Policy, International Security Policy, and Urban and Social Policy.  Economic and Political Development students generally complete the Workshop in Development Practice.  On occasion, a student will petition to take a project from outside their regular pool of workshops and a few projects will be offered jointly between program (these will be indicated as such).  In general, students are asked to apply for either the Capstone workshop or the EPD Workshop in Development Practice. If you have further questions about the EPD workshops, please contact Prof. Jenny McGill (em419@columbia.edu) or Ilona Vinklerova (iv2105@columbia.edu).

Can students who are not in the MIA/MPA degree program participate in a Capstone workshop?

The Capstone workshop is specifically developed as the culminating project for MIA and MPA two year degree students and therefore does not have the capacity to accommodate all of the student demand from outside of these programs.  Once all MIA/MPA students have been placed on a project, we will have a second application cycle in early November for any projects that have space available.  Students who are in their first year or who would like to take the project as an elective are asked to wait for the second application to apply.     

Do GPPN students need to take a Capstone workshop?

If you are a GPPN student who is at SIPA for the first year and go abroad for the second year, you will not complete a Capstone workshop at SIPA.  Instead, you will complete the curriculum for the school you attend in your second year.  If you are a GPPN student at SIPA in your second year, you will complete a Capstone workshop in your final semester.  

Are there workshops reserved for particular concentrations?

Faculty advisors will select their team from the pool of students who have applied to the project and may give priority to a specific concentration, depending on the needs of the project. It is very important to carefully review the "required background" section of the project description and to apply for projects for which one has the appropriate background.  If it is not possible to place a student on one of their ranked projects, the student will be asked to select another workshop. 

How are the Capstone workshop teams selected?

The average number of students per workshop team is 6, though teams range from 4-8 depending on the needs of the project. Workshops must have at least four students for final approval to operate. Final decisions about placement of students are made in consultation with faculty. Special consideration is given to the experience and skills of students, as well as to the requirements of each client and project and student interest.

First Priority: All graduating (non-EPD) MIA and MPA students.

Second Priority: MIA/MPA Students who are graduating at the end of the next semester.

Third Priority: Any other students.

Once placed on a Capstone team, students will automatically by registered for the workshop. Once registered, students will only be allowed to change their enrollment in extraordinary circumstances.

What are the percentages of students placed in their preferred Capstone workshops (based on their application 1-5 rankings)?

In spring 2016, out of 333 total participants, 305 were required to take a Capstone workshop. All students who are required to take a Capstone workshop are guaranteed a placement in one of the available workshops. We make every effort to place applicants in the workshops of their top choices.  It is important to select all 5 of your workshops carefully during the application process.

The following reflect the application and placement statistics in spring 2016:

First

250

82%

Second

18

6%

Third

17

6%

Fourth

10

3%

Fifth

7

2%

Sixth

3

1%

Total

333 with Elective

305

What information do faculty members see in the online application?

Faculty advisors will only receive the information pertinent to their workshop and will not be able to see information about the other workshops for which students have applied.

How many Capstone teams travel as a part of their workshop?

Roughly half of the Capstone projects will not require travel beyond New York City for their Capstone workshop (either because the client is based in New York or because communication is planned by video link). Some teams will need to travel once or twice to areas like Washington D.C., Boston, or Houston to meet with their client. A very small number of projects (approximately 15%) will involve international travel as part of the project. When travel is part of the Capstone project, this will be indicated in the project description under “logistics.”

Furthermore, all scheduled travel is subject to change if the needs of the project change or if travel is not feasible for any reason. If a course fee has been assessed and travel is cancelled, students will be refunded the course fee.

For projects with travel, do the students have to pay for these expenses?

Students who participate in a Capstone workshop that involves international travel will be charged a course fee of $300 at the outset of the Capstone project which will be included in their student bill. While SIPA will cover some costs associated with the trip (such as airfare), students should expect to cover some of their own expenses (such as meals). Each team will create a budget that will be approved prior to travel and will be required to remain within this budget. Expenses above the budgeted amount will be the responsibility of the students.

Some funding is provided for domestic Capstone related travel. Any expenses beyond the allocated budget for individual Capstone teams will be the responsibility of the student. Each team will be notified at the outset of their Capstone workshop as to the funding available for their team.

How are individuals and groups graded?

Student grades are derived from both the products they deliver to their clients and their level of participation and cooperation throughout the semester. Students receive individual grades.

Grades for the workshop will be based on the following criteria:

  • Quality of individual written work (10%)
  • Quality of participation in class, Peer review (20%)
  • Feedback from the client (20%)
  • Overall professionalism, including timeliness, ability to work with team, etc. (20%)
  • Quality of team’s final report and briefing (30%)
     

What is the SIPA Midterm Capstone Presentations?

The SIPA Midterm Presentations are intended to provide an opportunity for teams to present their initial findings to a panel of Capstone faculty advisors, discuss analytical issues, and express any problems they should be having. Teams will briefly summarize their work to date and present expected outcomes followed by a question and answer period with the panel of Capstone faculty advisors and experts.  

Do all Capstone teams have the opportunity to present their final presentation to the client?

Most teams will present in-person to their client at the end of the workshop.  At times, it may not be possible for a team to deliver a final presentation in person to the client due to geographical constraints or other logistical barriers. Any report or presentation that is not considered to be up to SIPA's standard will not be presented to the client.

How do I record this on a resume?

To acknowledge your SIPA Capstone workshop, you should note your workshop in the following manner:

United Nations, Division for Sustainable Development, New York, NY, Spring 2017

SIPA Capstone Workshop Consultancy

  • Under the supervision of a faculty advisor, served on a team of graduate student consultants to produce a publication on the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol to serve as a capacity building document for the Division.
  • Prepared a regional case study focused on Brazil's development and implementation of CDM project criteria; including an economic analysis, stakeholder review, and project analysis.

Whom do I contact if I have questions?

For general inquiries: sipa_workshops@columbia.edu

Suzanne Hollmann
Capstone Program Director
Room 1403B IAB
Phone: 212-854-6279
Suzanne.Hollmann@sipa.columbia.edu

Saleha Awal
Capstone Program Coordinator
Room 1403 IAB
Phone: 212-854-9618
sa3359@sipa.columbia.edu