Your Public Administration Capstone

Any program can help you move toward a diploma, but the USC MPA’s rigorous curriculum helps you gain more than a credential. With our MPA you have the opportunity to apply your education in a real-world setting before graduation. Through our capstone course, you will connect with senior decision-makers from local and state government, elected officials, nonprofit organization leaders and key public sector service providers to develop strategic solutions to real issues.

The MPA capstone consists of a client-based project. Students work in teams of 3-4 on a semester-long project. At the end of the semester students produce a project report and communications briefing for that client. Student teams meet with the client to present their findings, answer questions and suggest next steps. The team that produces the best project across all capstone projects in the MPA in all modalities receives a cash prize at our annual Price School Awards Ceremony.

How Can a Capstone Help Me?

Your capstone is more than just a course — it’s an opportunity. The capstone component of the USC MPA allows you to network with senior public policy and government leaders, build tangible experiences and help communities create solutions. It’s designed to help you move beyond theory and into application, while allowing you to demonstrate a high level of competence in public administration.

Our graduates have already leveraged their capstone experience to improve their communities and advance their public administration career. See what one graduate had to say about her capstone experience:

Click here to read more about previous capstone winners.

Public administration requires action. That’s why our capstone course emphasizes practice over theory. For 2016 graduate Wai Shong Chan, that meant working with a private sector client ready to pursue opportunities in augmented reality.

Wai Shong and her team were tasked with expanding augmented reality technology into a government agency. Through practical application and innovation, her team created a business plan for the emergency management sector to help responders prepare and train for any emergency situation.

Today, Wai Shong works as a public policy research analyst with the University of Anchorage, Alaska.

“The capstone helped me gain more perspective and experience because I was getting a real-life client. Winning our capstone felt like a dream come true.”
— Wai Shong Chan, 2016 Recipient of the John Randolph and Dora Haynes Foundation Recognition Award

Click here to learn more about MPA Online Student Capstone Projects.

MPA Components

The concept of community is an essential part of public administration, so the Price School seeks to foster a learning community for online students through two Los Angeles residencies that take place at the beginning and end of your MPA degree. Students enjoy team-building exercises, group discussions and opportunities to meet the faculty, alumni and peers in the program.

Our introductory academic residency includes a brief orientation to our online MPA program and services available to students, as well as educational seminars from the faculty who teach our courses to prepare students in digital literacy, communications and writing techniques, research, quantitative methods and more. Students will also have the opportunity to meet local alumni, all of the key faculty, their individual coach, the dean and other USC Price leaders. You can also visit the bookstore and campus offices.

The second residency occurs the week before graduation, in the form of a capstone event involving a number of presentations and studios, where students get to share their best work with others. These residences allow online students the opportunity to develop and solidify relationships with fellow students and alumni, reinforcing the professional networks for which the Price School is well-known.