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Academic honors for the MPA online program and student capstone reports

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USC Price School has announced the 2020 John Randolph and Dora Haynes Award for the Outstanding and Honorable Mention Capstone projects for the master’s in public administration program. This year’s nominated projects covered a wide array of critical and timely public administration and nonprofit management research topics using a rich and diverse palette of research methodologies both qualitative and quantitative and generating practical recommendations tailored to specific client organizational needs. Below are the projects and online MPA students (and guiding faculty) who have earned kudos for the top award and honorable mention!

1. The Haynes Award for “Outstanding” Capstone Project 

Title: Establishing a Path for Financial Sustainability in a Competitive Nonprofit Sector

Client: The Colorado Institute of Music

Students: Blanca Gavino Arvizu, Trey de la Pena, Milan Smith & Celso Templo Jr

Faculty Advisor: Dr. John Calanni

This team’s topic is one that is foundational to public administration and nonprofit management. The Colorado Institute of Music had a social mission about music and kids; yet the organization came at a crossroads faced with financial sustainability and organizational survivability.  As John Calanni, this team’s faculty advisor noted, “CIM was low in funding, they weren’t reaching the kids they needed to reach, but they reached out to USC Price for help. It is a client unlike any other that we’ve seen in the program.  They knew Price students could help bridge the gap in their outreach efforts, and ensure CIM could survive to serve another kid, through music, for another year.”

The team generated a comprehensive strategy for enhancing CIM’s organizational structure and capacity, namely its fundraising, donor recruitment, and financing so that it can strengthen its resource base and implement the proposed plan in real time.  Bianca, Trey, Milan and Celso sifted through a literature review of over 600 sources, synthesized smart practices from a study of 60 comparative organizations throughout the nation, conducted structured elite interviews with transcripts, performed a thorough financial evaluation and run a complex stakeholder analysis, in an effort to distill a combination of short-term and long-term actionable strategies for ramping up fundraising and donor engagement utilizing the latest innovations of “P2P fundraising.” Consultants in the real world get remunerated for a 142 page report with over 150 literature entries. A year later, CIM is still implementing the plans put forth by this USC Price team and seems to have turned a corner. In addition to showing solid quantitative and qualitative research methods, a strong collaborative effort, this team’s capstone exemplifies Price School’s mission to improve through research the quality of life for people and their communities.

2. The Haynes Award Capstone Project with “Honorable Mention”

Title: Moving the Needle: Increasing the Impact of St. Patrick’s Center’s Homeless Respite Center

Students: Jennifer Hsu, Kate Kelly, John Rogers and Nita Talwar

Client: St. Patrick’s Center Board of Directors, Wilmington, Delaware

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Tara Blanc

This capstone project served an extremely deserving nonprofit in Wilmington, Delaware, that provides emergency food, meals, clothing, transportation and recreational activities for people in need, including a Respite Center that offers basic services for the homeless. To help the Respite Center, which currently operates without a formal plan, move beyond its current level of service and help move its clients out of homelessness.  Jennifer, Kate, John and Nita researched and analyzed methods to address homelessness and sought to understand the organization’s current resources and programming. They produced an actionable plan that includes objectives and tactics based upon a thorough literature review, best practice research, expert interviews and a SWOT analysis. The strategic plan produced for the Respite Center was the first of its kind for St. Patrick’s and included important short-, medium-and long-term initiatives that map out a path for the Respite to achieve its goal of “moving the needle” on homelessness in Wilmington.

This team’s strategic plan proposal, was presented via a live virtual presentation before St. Patrick’s 15 Board of Directors. Per Tara, their faculty advisor, “the Board asked implementation questions, expressed appreciation for the long-term planning timeline provided by the student team, and acknowledged the utility of the plan to facilitate institutional buy-in and to mitigate constraints. The client has stated the Communications Briefer has already been used in grant proposals and discussion in furtherance of the strategic plan.”  This project earned the Haynes Award Honorable Mention for its implementation utility to an organization servicing a vulnerable community.

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