Capstone Course

The capstone is an opportunity for students to complete their Master of Arts in Public Management degree by addressing a practical, real world challenge using the skills and knowledge they have gained throughout their program of study.

The capstone process is an essential component of the MA in Public Management. It is the culmination of graduate work in the program and the final product of the degree. The capstone process is an opportunity for students to examine in depth important policy or management question with the ultimate end of developing a real solution to a problem.

Capstone projects require students to get up-to-speed quickly on a specific content or issue area; enhance key process skills such as project management; and develop competency in gathering, analyzing, and reporting on data. Students will interweave their learning in all these areas.

Capstone Requirements

Course requirements include: enrollment in the capstone course; attendance and participation in class activities; completion of assignments on time; completion of field work (if applicable); occasional large group discussions out of class time; and the preparation and presentation of findings. There may be additional requirements depending on the specific course or instructor, or based on the nature of a given capstone project.

The final capstone report will consist of one paper on a topic agreed to by a capstone adviser. All students must take 470.860 “Capstone for Public Management.”

Capstone Writing, Formatting and References

The capstone report should be approximately 30 to 35 pages long, double-spaced, using footnotes, not endnotes or parenthetical references. Students should follow “The Chicago Manual of Style: The Essential Guide for Writers, Editors, and Publishers.” Students may also purchase Kate Turabian’s “A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations”, 6th Edition (Chicago:  University of Chicago Press, 1996), which is an abbreviated (and less expensive) version of the Chicago Manual of Style created specifically for students. Common errors in punctuation and capitalization can be avoided by consulting William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White, “The Elements of Style”, (Needham Heights, Massachusetts: Allyn & Bacon, 2000). Please also consult the University’s “Guidelines for the Preparation of Dissertations and Thesis” for detailed information about the organization and formatting of the capstone report at The form of the capstone should be a decision memorandum, with the following sections:

  1. Action-Forcing Event (potential or existing event that necessitates the need for action or review).
  2. Statement of the Problem (a description of the problem and the key arguments for why it needs to be addressed).
  3. History (a history of the problem and issue area. Only relevant history should be included. This could include a legislative history, a history of policy actions, etc.).
  4. Background (The first part of this section must provide a detailed presentation of the facts that support the problem exists and is worthy of a policy response. This section can include data, testimony of experts in the field, reports and case studies, etc. The second section must include a list key principal actors and constituents, and identify their position on the issue at hand.).
  5. Description of Policy Proposal (a presentation of the policy solution, including the authorizing mechanism – legislation, regulation, or executive action, etc. – and policy implementation tool – how it will work, and what entity will implement).
  6. Analysis (includes an in depth policy, political, and economic analysis and evaluation, and where relevant a budgetary impact).
  7. Recommendation (present the recommended option and identify and provide responses to the most important benefits and criticisms of the chosen option).

Completing the Capstone

“The Capstone for Public Management” is the final required course in the MA in Public Management program, and students can only take the capstone course in their final semester and after having completed all the other core requirements. In the semester prior to taking the capstone course and conducting the project, students identify a project area. The student adviser will be the faculty member teaching the Capstone class. However, students can identify additional advisers if they so desire. The adviser may be a faculty member teaching in the program, a supervisor from the student’s place of work, or an expert with appropriate credentials.

For a variety of reasons, many work-related, some students find that they cannot finish their capstone report after having taken “Capstone for Public Management.”  These students must enroll in “Capstone Continuation” in every subsequent semester, including the summer, until they finish. The continuation fee is currently $500 per semester. Continuation students are not required to attend class, but will consult with and submit their completed capstone project report to Program Director Paul Weinstein (

Capstone projects are reviewed by the capstone review committee at the end of every semester, including the summer. The committee will confer on each project and students will receive one of the following four possible outcomes:

1. Accepted, no revisions
2. Accepted, with some minor revisions, no further committee review required
3. Substantial revisions needed. Further committee review required before student may graduate
4. Not accepted (highly unlikely at this stage)


Students who receive a grade of “A-” or better in all their coursework and have completed all their degree requirements will graduate Cum Laude. Students who earn the grade of “A-” in all their coursework and receive at least an “A-” on their Capstone will graduate with the distinction of Magna Cum Laude. Students who receive an “A” or better on all their coursework and at least an “A” or better on their capstone will graduate Summa Cum Laude.

In addition, each academic year the Public Management program confers the Harold Seidman Award for an outstanding capstone. Each recipient receives recognition and a monetary award. The Seidman Award winner(s) are announced at the end of the spring semester.

Submission of Final Copies of Capstone Project Report

Public Management Office Final Copy. Once a Capstone project report has been approved, it must be printed on acid-free paper, which is available locally at printing and copying firms such as the Copy Center at Dupont Circle or Staples. Along with this copy, please include an extra copy of your title page and abstract. Bring in the finished, box thesis to Nicole Cosey, room 104Y.

Copies for Library. In addition to the acid-free copy, two more copies of the Capstone project need to be submitted as well on regular paper for our library. These two copies should be tape bound with a clear plastic cover.