Capstone Student FAQ
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.
- What are the prerequisites for Capstone registration?
- Why Capstone?
- What is the timeline for the Capstone registration process?
- How do I request registration for Capstone?
- How are Capstone projects selected? How are Capstone projects assigned?
- When will I learn about project specifics?
- How are teams selected and how many people are there on a team?
- What is required of students?
- What resources are available to capstone groups?
- How are individuals and groups graded?
- What types of projects have been done in the past?
- What if I have an idea for a Capstone project?
- What is the Capstone Expo?
For Capstone prerequisites, refer to your program requirement checksheet on the courses homepage.
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.
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 Research Capstone?
The Research Capstone section provides an opportunity to design and execute your own research project on a pressing social question over the course of an academic year. Research Capstone students work on teams but not for an outside client. Under the guidance of an experienced faculty member, Research Capstone students develop a research question, conduct a literature review, develop hypotheses, find relevant datasets, run analyses and write up their findings, in addition to honing process skills of project management and teamwork. Most Research Capstone students go on to pursue careers in quantitative research, including Ph.D. coursework.
What is the timeline for the Capstone registration process?
Details regarding when to submit a Capstone registration request can be found in the informational video at the top of the Capstone homepage. Assuming you have met all of the Capstone prerequisites and submitted your registration request, you will receive a permission number to register on July 1.
Students cannot register themselves for Capstone via Albert. The registration process is described in the informational video at the top of the Capstone homepage. All students requesting registration in Capstone are required to watch the video. Students who have met all prerequisites for Capstone and have submitted their registration request will given seats in sections based on their program and specialization.
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 the fall, Capstone faculty leaders present a slate of possible projects to students in their section and students are assigned to Capstone groups by faculty.
Students are presented with a slate of vetted projects from which to choose when classes begin in the fall semester.
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.
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. In addition, we have a list of Mutual Expectations for reference.
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).
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.
Review a sampling of past Capstone projects.
If you have a potential client for a Capstone project, the client needs to go through the formal request for proposal process.
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.
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.
- Student Capstone Guide
- Student Global Travel Handbook
- Application for Supplemental Travel Funding
- Reimbursement Form for Capstone Team Expenses
- Reimbursement Form for Pre-Approved Capstone Supplemental Travel