Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Taubman Center

Capstone 2014: From Bangladesh to the White House and Back to Rhode Island

February 5, 2014

The Taubman Center's master's class of 2014 will be the first to complete a two-semester capstone. Students are clearly benefiting from the extra time to develop and define their capstone projects. Students had a “full immersion experience,” during the fall semester as they worked closely with clients to define the scope of their work, says Taubman professor and capstone coordinator Bill Allen.

Early in the semester, Allen and co-coordinator Patrick McGuigan guided students in selecting projects from more than twenty proposals submitted from both the private and public sector. Student teams chose five projects, including two that resulted from summer internships pursued by master’s students Gayatri Saghal and Samuel Rogers. Each student team will “cap” their learning experiences in the master’s program by producing a forty-page paper and presenting their findings to their clients in May. Here’s a preview of this year’s capstone projects:

Team: Ivy Depew, Gayatri Sahgal, Jonathan Stoll
Client:BRAC, an international development firm based in Bangladesh whose mission is to create opportunity for the world’s poor through microfinance, education, healthcare, legal services, community empowerment, and social enterprises
Project: This team is working with BRAC’s Bangladesh branch to develop performance metrics for five pilot programs targeted at improving the living conditions and job opportunities of low-income individuals. BRAC hopes to apply these metrics to help scale up these programs to a national level.

Team: Chang Liu, Sukhna Matharu, Weichao Zhang
Client:AS220, a social and creative hub for local artists that provides a wealth of programs at several Providence locations
Project: This team will help AS220 develop an effective evaluation plan for its youth program. Given the embryonic nature of program evaluation in the field, they will focus on identifying the nature of possible data, exploring specific measures and indicators, pinning down key decision points that require special scrutiny and developing a logic model for its youth program to do routine evaluations.

Team: Adolfo Bailon, Graham Sheridan
Client:Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council, Providence, Rhode Island
Project: This team will study the State of Rhode Island's government structure for transportation and infrastructure repair oversight and attempt to identify funding streams independent from the federal government.  The team plans to do extensive research of national organizations such as the National Governor's Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures; and elected and agency leaders in Rhode Island, Utah, Maryland, Oregon, and Virginia.

Team: Sarah Hall, Nora Kane, Matthew McCabe, Samuel Rogers
U.S. Office of Management and Budget, White House, Washington DC
Project: In 2012, President Obama initiated a review of the Federal permitting and review process for infrastructure projects with two goals: cutting timelines for the process in half and improving environmental and community outcomes.  The Office of Management and Budget was tasked with implementing this initiative, including the measurement of attaining these goals.  This team is helping the OMB to establish indicators to measure community and environmental outcomes.  These indicators are being designed to ensure that as timelines are streamlined, the permitting process is able to successfully review and mitigate the impacts of infrastructure projects.

Team: Amber Ma, Kelsey Sherman, Minna Zhu
: Green and Healthy Homes Initiative, Providence Rhode Island; a nonprofit, multi-city organization that partners with municipal governments to improve home energy efficiency and health and safety, particularly in low-income environments
Project: The team will help the recently formed Rhode Island Alliance for Healthy Homes (RIAHH) prepare for its upcoming launch. RIAHH — a coalition of state agencies, nonprofits and other stakeholders involved in health, housing, and energy —  seeks to understand how these sectors overlap and connect in Rhode Island so that processes can be streamlined and impact maximized. The team will produce a business model and business plan that will serve as a rigorous process guide for RIAHH. The team's final plan may be replicated to help create Alliances in other locations.