Grad Student How-To: NYU Wagner's Capstone Experience
Many masters programs choose to have students complete a capstone project rather than a written thesis. Some master programs at NYU like the College of Global Public Health, Stern, Steinhardt and Wagner give students the opportunity to apply the skills they have learned throughout the program to a capstone project. The project allows a team of students to work together throughout a semester or a year as they apply the core competencies taught to real life concerns and issues. At the end of their capstone, students present their research in a unified and practical presentation to either a committee at their school or the client they have been working with.
As part of my Master in Public Administration at the Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service, I was paired this past year with two of my colleagues as we worked with Project Alianza. Project Alianza forms community alliances to build schools and to provide educational opportunities for children on private coffee plantations. The organization enlisted a capstone team to gain strategic recommendations for program evaluation and expansion. And the best part about this organization? It was founded and continues to be run by an NYU Wagner alumna!
We had the amazing opportunity to actually visit Nicaragua during the NYU January term, which was truly an incredible experience both personally and professionally. During our time in the coffee region of Nicaragua, we conducted on-site interviews and observations to better understand the organization and its needs. We also had a wonderful time representing NYU in the country, as we explored its beautiful landscapes and cities because of course, we also took advantage of the international travel opportunity! Check out our blog on the NYU Wagner website on our capstone travel experience HERE.
Once we got back from Nicaragua, we created a logic model that accurately encapsulated the full extent of program activities and provided an evaluation toolkit, so that these activities may be properly monitored and communicated externally. We also used these findings to propose a new organizational model, the Integrated Student Services Model. Finally, we provided fundraising documents to help Project Alianza explain their work to funders. All of this will be showcased at Wagner’s annual Capstone Expo.
With capstone, my experience at Wagner has come full circle, proving to me the value of our education and strength of our network. My work was exciting, refreshing and practical, which is everything I hoped I would get out of my investment in this program. If you are thinking about a masters degree, look into whether your program offers this option! I would highly recommend it, at least for me it was certainly more fun than writing a 50+ page thesis all by myself and without travel opportunities.