Skip to main content

Cornell University Cornell Brooks Public Policy

Capstone Case Studies

Recent Team Projects

Inter-American Development Bank

A Capstone team, working with the Salud Mesoamérica Initiative, drafted a proposal for improving the health care system in Guyana. The public/private Salud Mesoamérica Initiative, funded in part by the Inter-American Development Bank, invests in projects that seek to reduce health equity gaps in the poorest 20 percent of the region’s population. The proposal suggested establishing a “one-stop” resource center to support educational opportunities for Guyanese secondary and post-secondary students interested in health-related professions. This resource would provide information about health-related professions and funding opportunities for advanced training. The team developed a plan for implementation based on an in-depth analysis on the human resource needs of the health sector in Guyana.

MPA Program Concentrations: Public & Nonprofit ManagementInternational DevelopmentSocial Policy

CIPA students presenting their poster on the Uganda project
Brooks MPA Students presenting their poster on the Uganda project

Global Livingston Institute (GLI)

A Capstone team worked with GLI in Uganda to help promote improvements in the lives of former child soldiers. GLI is an NGO dedicated to rethinking approaches to international development. The Capstone team researched the complex socioeconomic conditions in the Lira region of Uganda and produced a report on existing programs that provide former child soldiers with mental health services, vocational training, and opportunities to participate in the agricultural sector. The team identified current resource gaps and offered recommendations for potential partnerships with the existing agricultural training programs. The team also used research of a previous Capstone team — incorporating analysis of interviews with former child soldiers — to make recommendations for a community-based vocational training program.

MPA Program Concentrations: International Development; Human Rights & Social Justice; Public & Nonprofit Management

Agricultural Association of Growers and Exporters of the Copiapo Valley (APECO)

APECO, a Chilean nonprofit, asked Capstone students to prepare a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) plan for the organization. APECO promotes sustainable and safe agricultural production in the Atacama Valley region in northern Chile, where farmers produce grapes and olives in irrigated fields surrounded by one of the driest deserts in the world. APECO requested the CSR so that the organization could improve public knowledge about its work, promote public engagement with its mission, and build community relationships. The team conducted interviews and focus groups with a variety of stakeholders in the rural communities of the Atacama Valley, including local law enforcement, a parent association for seasonal farm workers and others. After analysis, the group compiled key findings with recommendations for APECO’s future CSR strategy.

MPA Program Concentrations: Public & Nonprofit Management; International Development; Economic & Financial Policy; Environmental Policy

Dr. T.S. Wilkinson Memorial School, Nav Jeevan Sanstha (NJS)

Nav Jeevan Sanstha, a nonprofit school located in Nagpur, India, asked a Capstone team to develop plans for establishing a vocational institute to train workers for skilled occupations. The school, with more than 330 students, is dedicated to providing slum children with the basic necessities of food, shelter and clean clothes, as well as education and vocational training. NJS hopes that vocational training in expanding industries will increase the likelihood that the school’s graduates will gain employment and provide for themselves and their families. The team designed a strategy to create the vocational institute based on interviews and surveys with government officials, local vocational institutions, and NJS staff, teachers and students.

MPA Program Concentrations: Public & Nonprofit Management; International Development; Human Rights & Social Justice; Social Policy

Volcker project poster
Brooks MPA Students presenting their poster on the Volcker project

The Volcker Alliance, Truth and Integrity in Government Finance Project

The MPA Program is a partner in Volcker’s national initiative to examine transparency, accountability and efficiency in state budgeting practices across the United States. Capstone students were tasked with answering 40 specific questions about New York State’s budget and budgeting practices from the past two years. The Capstone team used comprehensive analyses of budget documents, media sources and interviews to answer questions about general budget practices, one-time actions, other post employee benefits, rainy day and reserve funds and disclosure practices. The team compiled data sources to provide a comprehensive assessment of the transparency and accountability of New York’s budget.

MPA Program Concentrations: Economic & Financial Policy; Government, Politics & Policy Studies; Public & Nonprofit Management

U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO)

The GAO, an independent, nonpartisan watchdog agency that works for Congress, asked Capstone students to examine the effectiveness of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program. LIHTC provides tax credits to investors building rental units for low-income households. GAO mentored the Capstone team, helping the students explore the characteristics of tenants in New York City LIHTC projects and the effects of new LIHTC projects on communities. Using two separate methodologies, the team collected and compared Census data for seven targeted neighborhoods with other neighborhoods. The team used GIS (geographic information systems) software to map LIHTC properties and look at impacts over nearly a decade. The students compiled data and charts to evaluate LIHTC’s impact for 13 variables including racial composition, average household income, house value, percent rent burdened, percent high school and bachelor’s degree attainment, percent female-headed households, unemployment rate and crime rate.

MPA Program Concentrations: Government, Politics & Policy Studies; Economic & Financial Policy; Social Policy

Ithaca Health Alliance (IHA)

Capstone students helped find new funding sources and develop grant applications for IHA, a local nonprofit community-based health organization that facilitate access to healthcare for all, especially the uninsured. The Capstone team conducted a comprehensive literature review, developed two case studies on similar nonprofits, and conducted interviews with IHA management. Their research provided substantive recommendations for new grant sources and branding, both of which can improve IHA’s fundraising. Additionally, the team drafted a sample grant proposal and provided opportunities for funding from community-based foundations.

MPA Program Concentrations: Public & Nonprofit Management; Social Policy

American Civic Association

A Capstone team provided strategic planning assistance to the American Civic Association, an established nonprofit that provides immigration services and refugee resettlement services in the greater Binghamton, N.Y., area. The organization needed assistance in strategic planning for immigration and citizenship services, refugee resettlement and job development. The students conducted a needs assessment for the nonprofit and provided recommendations based on numerous planning meetings and interviews.

MPA Program Concentrations: Public & Nonprofit Management; Human Rights & Social Justice; Social Policy