Student–Community Partnerships

Capstone Workshop
Humphrey School of Public Affairs

Kevin Gerdes
301 19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

Students interested in finding out more about their capstone requirement should visit this page on the Capstone Workshop.

Humphrey School Capstone Projects: Bridging the Classroom to Community

If you are a public or nonprofit organization, the Humphrey School wants to partner with you.

Each year, the Humphrey School connects with community organizations on field projects. This partnership allows our students to gain real-life experience while the organization gets to leverage the skills of our graduate students. If you have a project that aligns with the work we do here at the Humphrey School, our Capstone Projects might be a great fit.

The Humphrey School’s capstone program is one of the principal avenues for academic outreach and service to the broader community. Each year, the Humphrey School offers approximately 13 different capstone workshop courses and completes approximately 40 different capstone projects in support of community clients from the public and nonprofit sectors. 

Download 2019–2020 capstone projects overview

Capstone courses are offered year-round, with one course offering in the summer semester, two in the fall semester, and approximately 10 in the spring semester. The topical focus for each course varies according to the expertise of the faculty, needs of the student, and requests from the community.

Before you apply, which we hope you will, here's what you need to know:

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What are capstone student-consultant teams?

A group of three to five graduate students serves as a consultant team for an organizational client. The student-consultant team conducts research, analysis, and delivers a final presentation and product to the client upon completion of the project. Throughout their capstone project, the team members interface directly with the client through a point of contact, where they develop a working relationship that is crucial to the success of the capstone study.

Who are previous capstone clients?

Clients are usually public or nonprofit organizations and are based locally, regionally, nationally, and around the world. Previous capstone clients include World Savvy, Advocates for Human Rights, Dakota County, City of Minneapolis, Little Earth of United Tribes, Minnesota Alliance on Crime, Minnesota Department of Human Services, Global Deaf Connection/Junior Achievement Jamaica, Charities Review Council, Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia, North Point Evaluation Department, U.S. Department of State, Federal Reserve Bank, White Earth Nation, and Human Rights Watch. 

What makes a good capstone project?

Here are ten helpful tips for proposing a successful capstone project:

  1. Create a project that involves real policy work.
  2. Make sure the project does not require content knowledge.
  3. Have clear deliverables and make sure the project is of a manageable scope for the timeline.
  4. Think about how you will explain the project to students and why they will find it interesting. Often it is not the subject matter but the type of work the students will perform that gets them excited.
  5. Help the students with project management and time management.
  6. Communicate frequently. This may be more than the students think they need. One mid-semester meeting is required, but this is generally not enough.
  7. Think about what needs to happen to this project after the students are done and how you can position the project for future implementation. No one wants to work so hard on something that will never get used.
  8. Plan on spending a lot of time on the project and plan to make yourself accessible during the project time. At times a short turnaround is required.
  9. Be open to new ideas and new ways of doing things. If we already knew the answers we would not be turning to the students for help.
  10. Do not insert your own "solution” into your problem statement. The students are not there to prove your point to someone else.

How are faculty involved?

Each capstone workshop is run by one or more professors who serve as teacher and coach to the student-consultant teams. Capstone faculty members are typically involved in the initial project coordination with the capstone client, in order to evaluate the validity of a capstone project proposal and establish the initial parameters and scope of the study. Throughout the project, the faculty member provides instruction and advice to students on completion of key elements of the study. They also contribute to the evaluation of the project deliverables and the quality of the team’s effort.

What happens after an organization is selected?

If selected, clients must complete a memorandum of understanding/agreement with the student-consultant team that further details the capstone proposal's scope, requirements, and responsibilities. Clients assist the student-consultant teams by providing appropriate background data or relevant resources and arranging for a professional presentation to the respective organization's decision-makers near the end of the semester.

Have More Questions?

Still have questions? We have answers. Figuring out whether your organization is a good fit for the capstone program all starts with a conversation, so please don't hesitate to reach out: contact Kevin Gerdes at [email protected] or 612-626-1337.

Ready to Apply?

Once you are ready to apply and partner with the Humphrey School on a capstone project, fill out the capstone application form.