Information for Students

Capstone is learning in action. Part of the core curriculum of the MPA and MUP programs at NYU Wagner, it provides students with both a critical learning experience and an opportunity to perform a public service. Over the course of an academic year, students work in teams-either to address challenges and identify opportunities for an outside organization or to conduct research on a pressing social question. Ultimately, Capstone contributes not only to the students' education, but also to the public good.

In architecture, the capstone is the crowning piece of an arch, the center stone that holds the arch together, giving it shape and strength. Wagner's Capstone program plays a similar role, by integrating and enhancing student learning in several different arenas: a content or issue area, key process skills including project management and teamwork, and methods for gathering, analyzing and reporting data. Capstone requires students to interweave their learning in all these areas and to do so in real time, in an unpredictable, complex real-world environment.

Capstone FAQs

What are the prerequisites for Capstone registration?

For detailed information Capstone prerequisites for 2014-2015, click here.

Why Capstone?

The purpose of Capstone is to give students an opportunity, with faculty oversight, to quickly analyze and learn about an organization; to hone process skills such as project management, team work, self-reflection, and conflict management; and to research, analyze, and report out on data.

There is one Research Capstone section which is designed for the few students who know they want to pursue a career in quantitative research, most of whom expect to go on to pursue a Ph.D. As with the client-based Capstone projects, students still work in teams in the Research Capstone section; they just don't have a formal outside client.

It is important to keep in mind that Capstone is a process that is ultimately meant to provide students with broad content and experience within their specializations. It is not meant to provide experience in a specific organization or sector. We encourage students to seek out internships and job opportunities to gain experience in specific organizations, rather than rely on the Capstone program to provide that experience.

What is the timeline for the Capstone registration process?

Wagner holds Information Sessions for students each April; the RSVP link for these session will be available in March. These sessions provide you with all of the information needed to submit Capstone registration requests. Assuming you have met all of the Capstone prerequisites, you will receive a permission number by July 1. Note: In order to check students' Capstone eligibility, program administrators must review each student's academic record. This process cannot be completed until all Spring grades have been posted. 

How do I request registration for Capstone?

Students cannot register themselves for Capstone via Albert. The process will be described in detail at the Capstone information sessions. In short, students will be sent a request for registration form in April where they will indicate their program and specialization, and whether the Research Capstone is their first choice. Students who have met all of the prerequisites for Capstone will be placed in sections based on their program and specialization.

How are Capstone projects selected? How are Capstone projects assigned?

Potential Capstone clients respond to a request for proposals in the spring. All proposals are vetted by Wagner administration and viable projects are submitted to Capstone faculty for comment. In autumn, Capstone faculty leaders present a slate of possible projects to students in their section and students are assigned to Capstone groups by faculty.

When will I learn about project specifics?

It is important that Capstone projects be relevant to the client when classes begin in the fall, and we want to provide you with the most up-to-date project descriptions as possible. Because organizational needs are dynamic, it is impossible for them to know in the spring exactly what their needs will be in September. So while we understand that it may seem difficult to sign up for a class without knowing the specific projects it will cover, it is impossible to provide detailed descriptions of Capstone projects in April when students are first enrolling in classes. Students are presented with a slate of vetted projects from which to choose when classes begin in September. 

Capstone is about refining and applying the skills you will need in the future. It develops students' skills in project management and team dynamics, as well as honing research, data analysis and presentation skills. The specific organization you focus on is not a relevant variable for choosing a Capstone section. 

Capstone is a process that is ultimately meant to provide students with broad content and experience within their program specializations. It is not meant to provide experience in a specific organization. We encourage students to seek out internship and job opportunities to get experience in specific organizations and not rely on the Capstone program to provide that experience.

How are teams selected and how many people are there on a team?

Several factors play a role in team composition: interest in various projects, skill sets needed for a given project, diversity of skill sets and experience on each team, and team size. The specific team selection details vary depending on the individual Capstone instructors. Faculty are encouraged to get information from students, including their interest areas, resumes, and transcripts, in order to help ensure that there is an appropriate team composition for each project. Some faculty begin this process over the summer; others do it in the first weeks of the school year. Faculty make the final decision on team composition, and there is no guarantee that students will be assigned to their first or second choices. Most teams have 4-5 students.

What is required of students?

Course requirements include: enrollment in both semesters; attendance and participation in class activities and client and team meetings; completion of assignments on time; conducting field work; negotiating scope of work agreements with clients; occasional large group discussions out of class time; and the preparation and presentation of the team's findings. Capstone involves presentations from the instructor and guest speakers, class discussion, team meetings and project-oriented fieldwork with a client organization. There may be additional requirements depending on the specific course or instructor, or based on the nature of a given project.

What is expected of me?

There are certain expectations that are required of students, clients, faculty and Wagner itself. Click here to learn about these mutual expectations.

What resources are available to Capstone groups?

Each Capstone team will be reimbursed up to $500 for expenses such as reproduction, binding, local travel, and/or preparation of Capstone documents and display materials.

Supplemental travel funding may be available for reimbursement for airfare and train trips for Capstone students who are traveling outside of NYC to conduct their research. This supplemental funding does not cover accommodations or meals, and students who choose projects outside of NYC should expect to contribute financially to support their research. NYU does not advance money, but only reimburses expenses, requiring proof of travel to process payment (original boarding passes and proof of purchase).

How are individuals and groups graded?

Students are graded on both the products they deliver to their clients and evidence of progressive learning throughout the course. Grading considers students' participation in the team's work and class activities and their ability to act on peer and faculty feedback. Assessment for grading purposes also includes evaluations by fellow team members, faculty and clients, as well as a self-evaluation.

What types of projects have been done in the past?

Click here to review a sampling of past Capstone Projects

What if I have an idea for a Capstone project?

If you have a potential client for a Capstone project, the client needs to go through the formal request for proposal process. For details click here.

A Capstone proposal must be submitted by the client, not the student. Please note that there is no guarantee that a submitted project will be selected or that it will be appropriate for a student's program and specialization Capstone section. Students may not work on a project for their employer.

What is the Capstone Expo?

The Capstone Expo is an opportunity for all Capstone teams to come together and share process and findings with clients, faculty, administration, other students, and members of the wider NYU community. Each team writes an abstract and creates a poster board presentation that describes the project's purpose, methodology, key insights, and recommendations. This is a great opportunity for teams to show off the fruit of their hard work and see what other Capstone teams have been working on.