Info for Clients
Information for Capstone Clients
SIPA Capstone Workshops apply the practical skills and analytical knowledge learned at SIPA to a real-world issue. Students from the Masters of International Affairs and Masters of Public Administration degree programs are organized into small consulting teams (generally about six students per team) and assigned a substantive, policy oriented project with an external client.
The collaboration between SIPA students and the organizations benefits both parties. The organizations benefit from the expertise of SIPA students, who have a wide variety of professional and educational backgrounds and who are in the final semester of a demanding, two-year professional degree program at one of the leading schools of international and public affairs in the world. All student teams are advised by a SIPA faculty member with relevant expertise. The students benefit from the opportunity to put learning into practice.
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Clients include public agencies (from the local to national level), international NGOs and multi-national organizations, and major firms in the private sector—recent examples include Citi Private Bank, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Mercy Corps, New York City Mayor’s Office, the United Nations and the World Bank Group. Student teams, working under the supervision of a faculty expert, answer a carefully defined problem posed by the client. Each team produces an actionable report and an oral briefing of their findings at the close of the workshop that is designed to translate into real change on the ground.
For the full directory of projects, please see the Capstone Workshop directory here.
We seek to partner with organizations that can offer a project that is timely, but not urgent, which can be completed within a four-month period, that is of value both to the organization itself and to the learning experience of students.
Potential applicants are strongly encouraged to discuss project ideas with Suzanne Hollmann, the Capstone Program Director, before submission of a proposal. Applicants will be notified by the end of September about whether their proposal has been selected for further development. Applications received after August 31 will be considered on a rolling admissions basis. Priority will be given to applicants who have submitted before the July deadline.
During the summer, we will match the orrganization with an expert faculty advisor who will work with the client organization to further refine the project scope and deliverables. In October, students submit a formal application to the Capstone program, rank ordering their top choices. Students are selected by the faculty advisor and are matched with projects based on their demonstrated skill sets and interests. The actual workshop is conducted in late January to early May.
Returning Client and Faculty Preliminary Timeline for Spring 2023 Capstone Projects
July- August Preferred date to receive project proposals for the Spring 2023 cycle of projects. Project proposals selected for the spring portfolio are matched with a faculty advisor in the July-August period. September 16 First draft of the project agreement (the “Terms of Reference” or TOR) should be completed between faculty advisor and client September 30 Final TOR due to SIPA October 17 Capstone project descriptions are posted on SIPA's website for students to view October 31 Deadline for students to apply to Capstone workshop November 16 Capstone team student assignments are announced Early December Introductory session by faculty advisor for student team to discuss the details of the project and assign winter reading/research January 17 First day of classes for Spring Semester Week of January 17 Suggested: Client meets/conferences with Capstone team Week of March 6 Suggested: Midterm briefing to client on project’s progress March 13- 17 Spring Break—teams that are traveling internationally will travel during this week—no classes for all other workshops Week of April 10 Suggested: Written draft report or initial findings submitted to client Week of April 24 Suggested: Client briefing of project findings Before May 1 Final report and briefing due to client May 1 Last Day of Classes Early May SIPA Capstone Closing Reception End of June Preferred date for clients to confirm interest in returning for next project cycle
Supported by a Columbia faculty advisor, each student team starts work by late January on a draft work plan. Based on their desk and field research, each team prepares a report and actionable recommendations for review by the client in late April. Students work on average 8-12 hours per week on their project.
- Define goals and deliverables. Clients work with the faculty advisor in the late summer/early fall to define the project goals and deliverables.
- Participate in meetings. Over the course of the project, clients are asked to participate in three standard meetings—these are: an initial “kick-off” meeting, mid-term presentation, and final presentation. Beyond these meetings, the client should be available for periodic calls over the course of the semester with the team for status updates (generally twice a month throughout the project).
- Provide appropriate support. When there are costs associated with the project, such as international travel, clients are asked to provide financial or in-kind support for the project, which is determined during the completion of the project agreement in the fall.
Applicants for consideration for Spring 2022 will be notified before the end of September as to whether their proposal has been selected for further development.
Information for EPD Workshop Clients
Through the Capstone Workshop in Sustainable Development Practice (EPD Workshop), student teams add value to their clients’ current and future programs through focused desk reviews, field research and analysis, and practical recommendations. The EPD Workshop encourages multidisciplinary approaches to development challenges. Organized by SIPA’s Economic and Political Development (EPD) concentration, the EPD Workshop collaborates with other SIPA concentrations, and specializations including Gender and Public Policy; Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, International Conflict Resolution, International Finance and Economic Policy, International Organizations; Technology, Media, and Communications, and with other parts of the university including its regional institutes and the Earth Institute. The EPD Workshop also seeks opportunities to collaborate with universities and student researchers in the country where the client is located.
EPD Workshop clients include national and local governments, NGOs, development agencies, corporations, research institutes and others. Past clients have found the workshop extremely valuable, and several have partnered with SIPA over a number of years. Previous EPD Workshop projects have included needs and sector assessments, program evaluations, strategies for expanding existing projects, development of mobile apps, dashboards, tools, case studies, mapping exercises, facilitation of workshops and conferences, and other activities.
The EPD Workshop process begins over the summer (June–August), when possible project ideas are discussed with clients. By September, preliminary terms of reference are developed. In late October, teams of students are matched with projects based on their language proficiency, skill sets and interests. Supported by a faculty advisor, each student team starts work by early November on a draft work plan. Depending on the needs of the project and available budget, students can travel to carry out field work over Columbia's winter and spring holidays (in early January and in mid-March).
Based on their desk and field research, each team prepares a report and recommendations (or other deliverables) for review by the client in April. The student teams present their final reports during a two-day workshop at SIPA at the end of April. For clients who cannot attend the workshop, other arrangements can be made to present the students’ findings and recommendations to the client and other stakeholders.
The only costs associated with the EPD Workshop are the costs of the students' field travel. SIPA provides a limited budget to cover some of these expenses, and clients are asked to share a portion of the costs.