Capstone Courses and Projects
Americans for Informed Democracy
Americans for Informed Democracy (AID) is an organization dedicated to empowering students to address global issues related to development, peace and security, the environment, and public health in their communities. In 2009, AID faced a dramatic reorganization of its staff and leadership. As a result, the organization requested a Capstone team to support its strategic planning process and help focus its goals and resources. The Capstone team developed a student survey, an assessment of AID's capacity to meet the needs of the student base, a literature review, and an analysis of peer organizations. The team analyzed funding resources; interviewed the staff, board, and founder; and conducted information gathering meetings to gauge the efficiency of AID's internal operations. The Capstone team also surveyed AID's college student base to determine how the organization could better meet its members' needs and address characteristics of today's student activist culture. The team provided a report complete with comprehensive data, an organizational analysis, and implementation recommendations for AID's strategic planning process.
Brennan Center for Justice
In September 2008, New York State implemented legislation that entitles homeowners in foreclosure to a Mandatory Settlement Conference, with the hope of reaching settlements with their respective mortgage lenders. A 2009 study by the Center for New York City Neighborhoods, however, revealed that only 3% of 800 observed cases reached a satisfactory settlement. The Capstone team was asked by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law to determine the impact of legal representation for homeowners during New York City's Mandatory Settlement Conferences. They wanted to know if distressed homeowners stand a better chance of negotiating settlements with legal representation. What kind of attorneys matter? What can be done with Mandatory Settlement Conferences to give foreclosure victims a better chance? The Capstone team interviewed Judicial Hearing Officers, relevant attorneys, and other judicial personnel to clarify the nature and impact of New York City's Mandatory Settlement Conferences.
Gender segregation and the under enrollment of girls in career and technical education programs are pervasive problems in New York City and across the country. Although robust federal, state, and local legislation exists to protect women and girls from discrimination in education, stereotypes about "proper occupations" for men and women deter many girls from pursuing educational opportunities that can lead to lucrative, nontraditional careers. Legal Momentum's Pipeline Project works to increase the number of New York City middle and high school aged girls who enroll in and complete educational programs focused on skilled trades. Through this work, Legal Momentum hopes to forge systemic change to end the long history of gender segregation in these programs. The Capstone team conducted a process evaluation of the Pipeline Project's recruitment and retention processes and provided Legal Momentum with recommendations on how it can improve the program.
New York City Department of Education's New York City Mentoring Program
The New York City Department of Education's New York City Mentoring Program (NYCMP) connects New York City public high school students with adult mentors selected from New York City corporations and member associations in order to help the youth grow socially, professionally, and academically. At the end of each school year, NYCMP participants, including mentees, mentors, as well as school and mentor coordinators, complete surveys to provide data for program assessment. The Capstone team analyzed survey data from the past two academic years, collected additional data through interviews and focus groups, and created an external report to provide stakeholders with the results of the analysis and recommendations for program improvement. The team also created an internal report for the program's director, which included an assessment of the NYCMP's current method of data collection and analysis and recommendations for improving and expanding the program's evaluation processes.
New York City Department of Probation
The Capstone team conducted a process evaluation of the New York City Department of Probation's (Department) containment model for supervising sex offenders. The Department commenced this new model in October 2008, but had not examined the extent to which it had been implemented as intended. The purpose of the evaluation was to take stock of current practices and assess ways for enhancing the supervision model. The Capstone team employed a series of quantitative and qualitative analyses to document and describe current practices, identify successes and challenges in implementing the containment model, identify the extent to which policies have been implemented consistently across boroughs, and assess how different partners and agencies have worked together to provide services and supervision to probationers. Based on the findings, the Capstone team developed a series of recommendations on how to improve program operations going forward, using the Department's policies and national best practices as a guiding framework.
New York City Deputy Mayor's Office of Health and Human Services
The New York City Deputy Mayor's Office of Health and Human Services is working within the World Health Organization's guidelines to transform New York City into a city livable for people of all ages, with an emphasis on the elderly population, a large and growing proportion of New Yorkers. Given the need to ascertain the strengths and weaknesses of existing senior services, the Deputy Mayor's Office asked the Capstone team to develop and implement a community needs assessment. The team researched and produced a literature review of global, national, and citywide practices that best capture seniors' needs. Based on the findings, the team developed a pilot survey with several community stakeholders to determine the "age friendliness" of various services. Based on the survey results, the team made recommendations that would assist the Deputy Mayor's Office and its associated agencies in its future applications of the assessment tool.
New York City Leadership Academy
The NYC Leadership Academy is an independent, nonprofit organization that recruits, prepares, and supports visionary school leaders for the complex work of transforming high need schools into rigorous learning environments. The role of school leaders has changed significantly over the last 50 years and is likely to continue to change in the future, and the NYC Leadership Academy requested that the Capstone team research alternative models of school leadership and identify the benefits and barriers associated with them. Through literature reviews and interviews with policymakers, principals, teachers, advocacy groups, and research organizations, the Capstone team gathered information about the different forms principalship can possibly take. The information was compiled and analyzed to produce a report of findings and recommendations which would assist the NYC Leadership Academy in anticipating the ways principalship, and by extension principal training, may change in the future.
United Nations, Office of the Under Secretary General for Management
The United Nations system adopted results based management (RBM) as part of a broad reform initiative, though implementation of this framework has proven inconsistent across programs. The Office of the UnderSecretary General for Management requested that a Capstone team develop recommendations for a fully integrated performance management tool within the UN Secretariat. The proposed system would need to foster the strategic use of goal formation and performance indicators in short and long-term planning, while complementing RBM and the existing management structures. The Capstone team first conducted a gap analysis between RBM in theory and practice at the UN, based upon a document review of internal reports and interviews with managers in New York and Geneva. Using best practices and techniques of alternative performance management systems, like Balanced Scorecard, the Capstone team then provided tailored solutions to address gaps within the implementation of RBM in the Secretariat.