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Capstone Workshop FAQs for Students

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • A Capstone Workshop is a live consulting project with an external client outside of SIPA. Each workshop partners a team of about 6 graduate students with a faculty advisor. The goal is to provide clients with innovative analysis and practical recommendations, while SIPA students gain experience by working on a real-world problem. Capstone Workshops are designed to be completed in the final semester of a student’s time at SIPA. Capstone workshops are only offered in the spring semester.  


  • 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.

  • Like all classes:

    • Attendance and participation in class activities (Because the success of the Capstone workshop is reliant on the full participation of each member of the team, attendance in weekly class sessions is required.  Students who miss more than 2 unexcused classes may be dismissed from the project and will receive a failing grade for the workshop); 
    • 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.
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • MIA, MPA and MPA-DP students will apply for a Capstone project from October 9 - October 23 (until 12:00pm/noon) for a Capstone projects. Once placed into a Capstone Workshop, students will automatically be registered for their assigned workshop and the Capstone Consultancy Project Management fall short courseIt is not possible to change your assignment once you have been placed on a Capstone project.

    EPD Workshop in Development Practice have a different application process and timeline. Students are expected to apply to their own program (EPD students should apply for EPD workshops and all other students for Capstone). If you have questions about the EPD workshops, please contact Prof. Eugenia McGill ([email protected]) or Ilona Vinklerova ([email protected]). 




  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 is one alternative course that satisfy the Capstone requirement:

    L8016 S. Public Education Policy Seminar and Practicum (12 credit fall & spring course)

    Students who complete this course will satisfy their Capstone requirement and must work with OSA to allocate the remaining 9 credits to their degree audit.  

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

  • Students may not be enrolled in more than one Capstone 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.  

  • Capstone Workshops have been developed primarily for Energy and Environmental Policy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, International Finance and Economic Policy, International Security Policy, and Urban and Social Policy and MPA DP students. Economic and Political Development students generally complete the EPD Workshop in Development Practice. Students are expected to apply to their own program. 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 order to apply outside of your designated program, you must receive special permission from the director of your program (contact Prof. Eugenia McGill ([email protected]) for EPD workshop and Suzanne Hollmann ([email protected]) for all other concentrations. 

    If you have further questions about the EPD workshops, please contact Prof. Eugenia McGill ([email protected]) or Ilona Vinklerova ([email protected]).

  • The Capstone Workshop is specifically developed as the culminating project for MIA, MPA and MPA-DP 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/MPA-DP 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.  

  • 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.

  • 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. 

  • 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 spring and fall graduating MIA/MPA/MPA-DP students (non- EPD students)

    Second 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.

  • In spring 2022, out of 337 total participants, 322 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 2021:

    Required students placed: #Students placed Percentage
    First 241 75%
    Second 38 12%
    Third 14 4%
    Fourth 11 3%
    Fifth 7 2%
    Sixth  11 3%
    Total 322 100%
  • 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.

  • No student is required to travel for the fulfillment of the Capstone requirement.  Should a project include international travel, the standard travel course fee of $400.00 will be added to the tuition statement to help offset the cost of travel.  Any student on the project who does not travel will not be charged the course fee.  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.

    Students may only travel during periods when classes are not in session. It is not possible to miss class for to travel for the Capstone workshop.  All travel must be approved through the University compliance mechanisms, viewable here: https://globaltravel.columbia.edu/ 

    Please note, Capstone travel is limited to only students currently enrolled at SIPA. Family, including spouses and children, are not permitted to travel on an academic student trip. 

  • Students who participate in a Capstone workshop that involves international travel will be charged a course fee of $400 at the outset of the Capstone project which will be included in their student bill. The course fee will cover a small portion of the overall expenses for the trip. While major expenses such as flights, accommodation, transportation, visa and vaccine costs will be covered by SIPA, students are expected to cover their costs of their meals while in country.

    Students are not required to travel internationally to be in the workshop; however, if a student does not wish to travel, it is the student’s responsibility to notify the faculty advisor and the Capstone office on the first class that he or she will not be traveling; otherwise the student will be charged the $400 course fee. Students who opt not to travel with the team must work with their team to develop a plan for how they will contribute to the project over the spring break.  

    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.

    All international and domestic travel is subject to review and may be canceled by either the client or the University should the destination location be assessed as too great a risk for student travel or should some other issue arise, such as the client's inability to host a team of students. If this should occur, students will be reimbursed the course fee of $400.

    Please note, Capstone travel is limited to only students currently enrolled at SIPA. Family, including spouses and children, are not permitted to travel on an academic student trip. 

  • 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%)

    Because the success of the Capstone workshop is reliant on the full participation of each member of the team, attendance in weekly class sessions is critical.  Students who miss more than 2 unexcused classes may be dismissed from the project and will receive a failing grade for the workshop.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

    • Moody's Investors Service, New York, NY, Spring 2021
    • SIPA Capstone Workshop Consultancy

    Under the supervision of a faculty advisor, served on a team of graduate student consultants to: 

    • Assess the risk profiles of Latin American countries under evolving demographics and analyze the fiscal implications
    • Establish an analytical framework that gauges the impact of demographic trends on government debt sustainability
    • Provide policy recommendations for the financial challenges that this demographic shift will create

    In instances when the client has requested for alternative language to be used to describe the project, we will defer to the client's request.  

  • Clients have the option to be listed in general terms on SIPA's website (i.e. "a global financial institution") in cases where there are sensitivities around the use of the client name.  Students will always be able to describe their work on the project and will have a link to SIPA's website for their specific project.