Capstone projects aim to connect theory to practice
August 24, 2020
Seema Kumar came to the Maxwell School to pursue an Executive Master of Public Administration (EMPA.) Kumar, deputy secretary at the Home Department, Jaipur, the capital of the Indian state Rajasthan, hoped her executive education program would help her improve government operations and assess an e-government initiative.
Her capstone project, "Transparent and Responsive Governance To All: A Case Study of E-Mitra in Rajasthan," studied e-mitra, an e-platform used throughout the state. The initiative, a public-private partnership, is promoted as a model of convenience and transparency where citizens can access more than 434 government and business services in a one-stop shop.
"My topic was very specific to my state, so there was not much study material, but my interest helped me to explore it further," Kumar said. "It was really interesting and enlightening to judge the efficiency and effectiveness of this project."
EMPA courses helped her work with teams and analyze feedback to understand problems team members face working on the project. The project also improved her communication skills and drew from courses that addressed policy analysis and e-governance. Those courses provided "clear reasoning and logic to show how it has helped in the improvement of citizen service delivery and what more remains to be done to make it more effective."
She called her capstone the “sum total of my executive education experience,” adding, "I was able to use all the experiences I gained in my various classes, particularly the managerial leadership and the global civil society classes."
Kumar hopes her capstone will lead to improvements to Rajasthan’s E-Mitra initiative. "I definitely want to use my study to support and initiate the proposed changes and recommendations in the actual implementation of this project in my state," she said.
Like many international students, Kumar’s capstone focused on a topic related to the organization for which she works, said Saba Siddiki, associate professor of public administration and international affairs at Maxwell.
Successful projects typically include "availability and access to topic relevant data and a well-defined and feasible plan for collecting and analyzing project data," Siddiki said.
Concepts and skills used in the capstone project test students’ "ability to identify and frame organizational policy challenges, consider organizational or policy challenges through different conceptual lenses, or various abilities relating to data collection or analysis," she said.
Siddiki and Yilin Hou, professor of public administration and international affairs, teach the capstone course, a requirement for the EMPA program.
"This project should be the showcase of all new knowledge and skills each student has acquired during the program period,” Hou said. “I emphasize that this project is the steppingstone for the students to rise to their next stage of career development."
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