Student–Community Partnerships

Academic Programs
Humphrey School of Public Affairs

Sarah French
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 mainly offered in the spring semester, with one course offered in the summer 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 submit a project proposal, 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 some helpful tips for a successful capstone project:

  1. Create a project that involves real policy work.
  2. Make sure the project does not require organization-specific content knowledge.
  3. Have clear deliverables and make sure the project is of a manageable scope for the timeline. It should be able to be completed in one academic semester.
  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. Communicate frequently. One mid-semester meeting is required, but this is generally not enough.
  6. Think about how the student work will be used by your organization once it is completed. Students have the most interest working on projects that have a direct benefit or impact back to the organization and its constituents.
  7. Plan to make yourself accessible during the project. At times, a short turnaround is required.
  8. Be open to new ideas, new ways of doing things, and be careful not to insert your own "solution” into your problem statement. The capstone team works as consultants and partners to bring new solutions and approaches to the project.

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 is the process for reviewing projects?

Once a project proposal is submitted for consideration, it is reviewed for potential expertise matches among the capstone faculty who will be teaching in the next capstone cycle. Projects are considered throughout the year with a cutoff deadline in mid-September for those that will be offered the following spring and the end of January for those that will be offered in summer. Capstone faculty can change from year to year so the topics of expertise for projects may also fluctuate.

If your project doesn’t seem to fit into the capstone format, there may still be opportunities within the School to connect with instructors or students. Please contact the Director of Academic Programs, Diana Beck, at [email protected] with any questions.

What happens after a project is selected as a capstone?

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 to the Academic Programs team. Diana Beck is the Director of Academic Programs and Sarah French is the Academic Project Specialist. Sarah can be reached at [email protected].

Ready to Apply?

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