Capstone classes

SPEA's Capstone classes for MPA students are much more hands-on and intense than those in other public affairs programs. Each Capstone group is just four or five students, compared to 40 or more in other programs. Our classes tackle real-life projects, not case studies. Each class starts with a variety of local agencies "pitching" their needs to students, who select the project each group will work on. Students present their final projects to the leaders of those agencies, such as mayors, chiefs of police and directors of nonprofit organizations. The agencies implement the students' recommendations, so students can demonstrate real-life successes—or disasters they helped to avoid.

Recent Capstone examples

Title: MCCOY – Community Connections that Count

Summary: In 2009, the City-County Council of Indianapolis and Marion County selected MCCOY (the Marion County Commission on Youth) to manage its Early Intervention and Prevention (EIP) Initiative, which works to eliminate child abuse, child neglect and juvenile delinquency. In 2012, MCCOY engaged a SPEA Capstone class to evaluate the EIP Initiative’s effectiveness and provide recommendations for the initiative going forward. The group found that certain strategies have been more successful than others because MCCOY did not have enough resources to accomplish all of its goals, and because participation by community partners had declined since the initiative’s launch. Capstone students recommended that MCCOY pursue lead partners and encourage them to take greater ownership, increase human resources, maintain and/or strengthen current relationships with participating organizations and individuals, reduce the number of strategies and increase focus on those maintained. The Capstone group also developed checklists and tools for MCCOY to use in future evaluations.

Title: Riders in the Know/Drivers in the Know

Summary: For Bicycle Indiana and INDYCOG, Capstone students assessed how much bicyclists and motorists know about safe bicycling practices. Students surveyed cyclists and drivers, analyzed the results, and produced recommendations for a bicycle safety education campaign.

Title: Ransom Place Revitalization Team

Summary: The Ransom Place Neighborhood Association engaged students to help revitalize the historic neighborhood near the IUPUI campus. After conducting research, students developed three recommendations. The first was to become more involved in residents’ issues, by assisting with maintenance and landlord issues, joining the Indianapolis Neighborhood Resource Center, and developing a website. Second, Capstone students advised the RPNA to work more closely with Indianapolis city departments and local organizations. Third, the RPNA could improve neighborhood cohesion by including residents on its board, integrating the student and non-student populations, participating in an annual service project, and leveraging student technological expertise to document the neighborhood’s history.

Title: IUPUI Parking and Transportation Services Project

Summary: In an effort to reduce single-occupancy vehicle use on campus, IUPUI Parking and Transportation Services asked the Capstone group to assess transportation alternatives for IUPUI students, staff and faculty. The group reviewed IUPUI’s Master Plan, surveyed the campus population to determine transportation needs, completed both transit and land use analyses, assessed transportation alternatives, and made recommendations. Those included an automated people mover, carpooling, transit use and bicycle use. The group also suggested ways to fund and expand those options.

Title: Data Compilation for Workforce Development

Summary: EmployIndy, Marion County’s workforce development organization, needed a way to share data. Students evaluated how other workforce development organizations compile and use data, determined best practices and developed a digital dashboard. The Capstone group also suggested using an outside organization to create and maintain that digital dashboard, and recommended that it incorporate data from STATS Indiana, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Census Bureau.

Title: Cultural Connections

Summary: The Indianapolis Cultural Trail wanted to determine the trail’s economic impact. Capstone group research determined that the Cultural Trail has a positive economic impact on the City of Indianapolis ranging from $567,284 to $6,182,776. The group further recommended that Indianapolis Cultural Trail develop a trail counting program, expand directional signage to the trail, and educate the public on its connectivity.

Title: Expanding Student Entrepreneurship at IUPUI

Summary: IUPUI asked students to analyze entrepreneurship support services at the university. The Capstone group found that IUPUI offers these services, but support is weak. Students recommended that the campus develop a co-working space dedicated to entrepreneurship and providing services including access to technology, coaching/mentoring, access to funding, and research tools. The class also supplied the university with a five-year implementation plan.