MPA Capstone

The PA 590 Capstone Course provides MPA students with a practical, team-based experience in problem-solving within public or nonprofit organizations. This course requires students to integrate classroom learning with practical experience, and must be taken during the last two semesters in the MPA program.

The course requires each student to work in a team with 3-4 students to analyze an organizational or policy problem and to deliver a professional final report to the sponsoring organization that typically specifies the problem or task, defines alternatives, and proposes recommended course of action. Government, community, and nonprofit organizations work with the PA program to identify relevant projects that challenge students and serve agency goals. Students apply knowledge, skills, and competencies gained from core and elective courses in the MPA program to these practical public policy or management problems. This course also provides students with new knowledge about effective management of teams, negotiation skills, project planning and monitoring, and professional presentation skills. Students are responsible for negotiating project scope, determining project plans and scheduling, and researching and writing deliverables (reports and presentations). The final report is presented to the sponsor and academics in the public administration program.

Past Capstones Projects

Past projects have included the development of a proposal for a records management office at Cook County, the creation of job descriptions for positions in the Deerfield Police Department, and the design of an information management system at Erie Settlement House. The following sponsors have also participated in the Capstone Course:

  • Chicago Housing Authority – Information Systems/Data Management
  • Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning – Performance Measures
  • Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative – Program Evaluation
  • Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago – Revenue and Expense Forecasts
  • Gads Hill Center – Program Evaluation
  • Department of Health and Human Services – Needs Assessment for Women Veterans
  • City of Evanston – Performance Measures
  • Deerfield Police Department – Strategic Planning
  • City of Oak Forest – Management Reporting
  • Chicago Federal Executive Board – Strategic Planning
  • General Services Administration – Human Resource Management
  • Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Community Trust – Program Evaluation
  • Cook County – Tax Increment Finance Project

A few of our recently submitted final Capstone Projects can be found on the links below:

Submit a project

The MPA program is always looking for new agencies with which it can partner on future Capstone projects.  Project proposals are generally accepted up to two months in advance of the spring (January start date) and the fall (August start date) terms. If you have a project-worthy proposal and want to take advantage of graduate student skill and collaboration, contact Prof James Thompson at

Step 1: Review the attached Request for Proposal – The RFP provides information about the Capstone course and what you can expect from our student “consultants”. The RFP also provides a sample timeline for activities throughout the semester.

MPA Capstone RFP Fall 2017– (Download the PDF)

Step 2:  Download the attached application to submit a proposal.

Capstone Application Fall 2017 fillable– (Download the PDF)

Step 3: Print out form and scan or E-mail completed application and RFP forms to