Inside Fletcher: Faculty

Capstone Project Description

All Fletcher students must complete a capstone project during their final year. The capstone project must evidence scholarly and/or professional analysis informed by the sustained and appropriate application of analytical methodologies. The capstone project is a significant analytical piece of work: it represents work of a higher standard than what is normally expected of a term paper and provides an opportunity for students to draw on their methodological, analytical, and substantive learning in a comprehensive written study.

The detailed requirements for any capstone project are determined by the supervising faculty member and can take a wide range of forms, including but not limited to a traditional academic research thesis, a policy paper (whether for a government, an NGO or an international organization, whether for a real client or not), an operational plan (in development, in business, in public diplomacy, etc.), a case study, a business plan. Note that students who intend to apply to the PhD program must choose a traditional academic research thesis for the capstone project.

While all capstone projects are alike in that they must build on significant analytical work and consist of a written final product, the specific form the final product can take may differ widely. Students and faculty may choose these different forms in pursuit of their different pedagogical aims, specific career goals, etc. Students are encouraged to make clear arrangements with supervising faculty early on about what the mutual expectations are of the capstone project.

The Fletcher School has designated a number of courses explicitly as incubator courses: these courses provide opportunities and support for the development of capstone projects.  This could be because such courses devote specific attention to appropriate research and analytical methods; because they teach students the methodological and substantive skills required for the elaboration of proposals or projects; because students produce significant and high quality professional work for clients, whether alone or in groups; and, frequently, because these courses provide students with opportunities to discuss and compare their capstone project plans with each other.  Ideally, incubator courses will be taken in a student’s third semester, although the second or fourth semesters are possibilities as well. Students in our one-year degrees can enroll in such course in either semester. 

Note that incubator courses are open to both students who wish to take these courses as part of their preparation for the capstone project and students who do not (i.e., who will write a different capstone project).  In the large majority of incubator courses, the final product of the course itself will be the same for both groups of students.  Those students who wish to turn that product into their capstone project will need to take an additional step, specified by the instructor.

Students can also, with the permission of the instructor, prepare their capstone project in the context of a course that has not been designated as an “incubator.”  In that case, they will usually build off a final paper or product they wrote for that course and develop it further into a capstone project.  Students are also able to prepare their capstone projects in connection with independent study courses.  Independent study courses should involve periodic meetings between the student and the instructor throughout the term, as well as supervised readings, methodological preparation, and organization of the capstone project.  The School permits group independent studies, in which students work together in the framework of faculty projects, again with the explicit permission of the supervising instructor.

Only in extraordinary circumstances will a student be permitted to prepare their capstone project outside the context of a course or independent study. This will require approval by CSAP.

The capstone project is one of the cornerstones of the Fletcher education. After decades of requiring a traditional academic thesis, The Fletcher School decided, in the summer of 2012, to broaden the range of options, in order to respond to the breadth of students’ professional and intellectual needs.  However, it must be clear that, while the range of final products has become wider, the importance of high-quality analysis, informed by solid methodology and in-depth knowledge of an area, remains unchanged. The capstone project provides a unique opportunity to work long and hard—longer than one can usually do in professional life, and with more intellectual freedom and rigor—on an issue of interest to our students.  This is a great opportunity, and students are encouraged to start thinking about it and talking to faculty about their capstone project as soon as they can.   

List of incubator capstone courses for academic year 2013/14

Faculty Name

Course Number

Incubator Course Title

Aker, Jenny

EIB E247

Econometric Impact Evaluation

Bhide, Amar

EIB B233

Best Practices

Bhide, Amar

EIB B212

Starting New Ventures

Bulutgil, H. Zeynep

DHP P201

Comparative Politics

Bulutgil, H. Zeynep

DHP P223m

Political Violence

Chayes, Antonia

ILO L209

International Treaty Behavior:  A Perspective on Globalization

Conley, Bridget

DHP P220

Understanding Mass Atrocities

DeWaal, Alex

DHP P298

Conflict in Africa

Henrikson, Alan

DHP D200

Diplomacy, History, Theory and Practice

Hite, Nancy

DHP P216 

Research and Writing in the Global Political Economy

Jacque, Laurent

EIB B200

Foundations in Financial Accounting and Corporate Finance

Perry, John

DHP H203

The International Relations of the China Seas

Trachtman, Joel and Johnstone, Ian

ILO L203

International Law in International Relations

Tunnard, Rusty

DHP D 216m-01

 Social Networks in Organizations

Tunnard, Rusty

DHP D 217 M-01

Social Networks in Organizations Part 2

Tunnard, Rusty

EIB B237

Field Studies in Global Consulting