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MPA Capstone Project

Work with real world clients, network, and build your resume during the in-person residency on the USC Campus in Los Angeles.

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Fill out this form to hear from a Price admissions counselor, get invited to webinars for prospective students, and learn more about admissions and financial aid.

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Request Information

Fill out this form to hear from a Price admissions counselor, get invited to webinars for prospective students, and learn more about admissions and financial aid.

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Solve Real Problems for Real Clients

The Capstone residency occurs on the USC campus in Los Angeles during Spring semester each year and is taken closest to the term students will graduate. Student will work in teams of 3-4 to solve a problem for a real life client who is an executive director, senior decision maker, or CEO on a consultancy project of critical importance to the client.

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What to Expect

The Capstone Residency

Your capstone is more than just a course — it’s an opportunity. During this portion of the program, you will network with senior public policy and government leaders, build hands-on skills, and examine how you can help communities create real-world solutions.

The capstone is the culmination of the Master of Public Administration online program. In teams of three to four students, you will consult with a client and produce valuable research. The course connects online students with senior decision-makers from local and state government, nonprofit organizations, criminal justice, federal agencies, private sector firms and key public sector service providers. During the course, students develop “soft skills” such as consulting, advising, and communicating while developing new networks of professional contacts and are responsible for the academic effort necessary to develop strategic solutions to real issues.

At the end of the course, you and your team will produce a project report and communications briefing for your client. You will meet with the client to present your findings, answer questions and suggest next steps.

The most outstanding project among all USC Price MPA student teams will receive the Haynes Award for academic honor (and a cash prize) at our annual Price School Awards Ceremony.

Case Challenge Topics

Previous Case Challenge topics to be developed during the residency and presented in competitive judging rounds during the on-campus portion of the Capstone course have included complex societal problems that are often in the news at the time of the residency, including:

  • Preventing Veteran Suicide
  • Data Privacy Challenges
  • The Opioid Crisis 
  • Homelessness
  • Policy Brutality

Case Challenge Competition

Student teams compete in oral presentations to a panel of specific experts with a target client in mind in a semifinal round of the competition. Following the selection of four finalist teams, faculty will be assigned to each team, as well as student advisers from among the semifinalists to critique and coach the finalist team in presenting on a second day. The four finalist teams will be given a new assignment prompt, asked to update their oral presentation and slide deck accordingly, and to produce a two-page Communications Briefer handout for the VIP finalist judges on Day 2.

Winners of the Capstone Case Challenge are awarded three-inch gold medals with the seal of the University engraved on the front side and the date and name of the competition engraved on the back. Medals, which hang on colored ribbons, are suitable for wearing during graduation ceremonies.

Student Capstone Experiences

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