MPP Capstone

The MPP capstone is a one-semester class that culminates in a final paper and oral presentation. Students begin the semester with a topic in mind and hit the ground running, building their project over a 13-week period that mirrors the timing of preparing a real world policy brief. Students work with the capstone professor to ensure that their topics are focused.

Generally students choose a topic that is relevant to their concentration, which helps them bring background knowledge to the policy area and any relevant literature. After selecting a topic, students conduct significant research and literature reviews to diagnose the policy problem and weigh the pros and cons of several potential policy solutions.

Capstone is designed to highlight the policy analysis skills students will have gained during their first 3 semesters of MPP coursework. The final result is a 25-30 page policy brief and an oral presentation. The capstone has a strong focus on concise, cogent writing and verbal communication.

Caroline Swaller, MPP joint with WGSS'17, presenting her capstone
Student Caroline Swaller, MPP'17, responding to a question from Professor Anita Hill on her capstone presentation about paid family leave policy.

A Heller MPP student has won first or second place in the MassASPA capstone competition every year for the last five years 

Every spring, Heller MPP students compete in the Massachusetts chapter of the American Society for Public Administration (MassASPA) capstone competition against students from other MPP and MPA programs.

Mary Brolin, PhD'05, Behavioral Health Policy Concentration chair
MPP capstone course professor Mary Brolin, PhD'05

Mary Brolin, scientist at the Institute for Behavioral Health and lecturer in the MPP program, where she teaches the capstone course, says, “One of the things that amazes me is the that the topics the students present on for capstone are the same things I hear on NPR every day when I ride in. Often I’ll hear stories on the radio about topics that students wrote their capstones on two or three years ago, which tells me our students are doing cutting edge, relevant work that is in the news and continues to be in the news.”

Some recent capstone topics have included:

  • “Beyond Bitcoin: Exploring How Blockchain Can Secure Women’s Land Rights in Africa,” by Mary Lou Ponsetto, MPP’18

  • “Somewhere Over the Rainbow: Solving the Crisis of Homeless LGBT Youth in the Greater Boston Area,” by Ryan Mishler, MPP’18

  • “Overlooked and Underserved: Supports for Male Victims of Domestic Violence,” by Tyler Galarneau, MPP’18

  • “Equity Works: Supporting the Economic Security of Immigrants Facing Liminality,” by Alexandra Turner, MPP’18

  • “Get the Bosses Off Our Backs: Reforming Our Labor Laws and Reviving the Labor Movement,” by Adam Chaikof, MPP’18

  • “Towards a More Equitable TANF: Leveraging Cash Welfare to Reduce Poverty Rather than Regulate Low-Income Parents,” by Elizabeth Olson, MPP w/WGS’18

  • “Academia Isn’t for Everyone: Uprooting the Lie of Black Disposability in Education,” by Shayna Jones, MPP’18

  • “Restoring Balance to the Prescription Drug Market: An Opportunity to Rein In Costs and Save Lives,” by Jake Shafran, MPP’18

  • “Best Practices to Reduce the School Discipline Gap in Massachusetts High Schools,” by James Conlon, MPP’18

  • “Addressing Women at Mass Incarceration’s Front Door: What it Means to End Cash Bail in Massachusetts,” by Kelcey Duggan, MPP’18  

  • “Developing Communal Consensus: How Jewish Community Relations Councils Represent the Views of Their Constituents,” by Jacob Markey, MPP’18  

  • “Solving the Cy Pres Problem,” by Sylvia Stewart, MPP’18

  • “Labor of Love: Policy Solutions to Support Elder Care Workers,” Rebecca Huber, MPP w/WGS’18

  • “Sovereignty Over Land, Sovereignty Over Body: Establishing a Path to Justice for Native Survivors of Sexual Violence,” by Anja Parish, MPP w/WGS’18

  • “Advocating for Children: Consistency and Standardization for Child Advocacy Centers in the United States,” by Megan Collier, MPP’18

  • “Excelling from the Start: Reducing Inequity in Early Education and Care,” by Elyssa Baker, MPP’18

  • “Fostering Brilliance: Towards a Systematic Gifted Education Policy in Massachusetts,” by Finn Gardiner, MPP’18

  • “Educational Opportunity and Accountability: Addressing Inequities in the Massachusetts School Accountability System,” by Annie Leiter, MPP’18