Capstone Course

In the Global Affairs B.A. program, a hands-on capstone project replaces the senior thesis.

Global affairs seniors are required to take a capstone course. Working in small groups and overseen by a Yale faculty member, the students complete a public policy project on behalf of a client, which can be government agencies, not-for-profits, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and private sector entities in the United States and abroad.

The program is designed to give our seniors hands-on public policy experience, and to give clients an opportunity to benefit from an independent analysis of an existing or prospective policy, initiative, or area of concern.

For each course, the Jackson Institute works with the client to formulate a project that is appropriate and mutually beneficial. Over the course of the fall semester, the students meet formally once a week with their faculty instructor, and work outside of class as necessary to complete their project. The students typically travel to the location of their client at the beginning or the end of the semester.

The capstone course is led by Casey King, director.

Fall 2021 Capstone Projects

Stabilizing Venezuelan Refugee Migration | David Robinson

Millions of Venezuelans have fled their homes into neighboring countries in the face of economic collapse, social dislocation and regime pressure. It is the second largest external migration in the world, after Syria, and the journey is often dangerous and uncertain. Receiving countries, including Colombia, Peru, and Ecuador, among others, joined together in the Quito Process in 2018 to promote regional cooperation and to facilitate the social and economic integration of refugees into their communities. While Quito Process countries have committed to working thematically to address inequities between national responses, much of the work to date has remained at the level of “best practice” case study. Despite good faith efforts, thousands of displaced people continue their journey across second and third international boundaries every day to pursue better opportunities, putting themselves at risk and further destabilizing the region. In collaboration with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM), project participants will examine “push-pull” factors among Quito Process members, especially disparities in migrants’ access to health, employment, education and justice systems, as well as initial reception and orientation practices and xenophobia levels. They will engage with refugees and migrants themselves and with international organizations, including the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration, and with TodoSomos and other international and national NGO’s serving migrants along the “ruta de caminantes” to better understand the complex dynamics that prompt people to move. Participants will prepare realistic policy recommendations for reducing/mitigating disparities or other causes of pendulum migration for PRM to present to relevant Quito Process working groups, via its role as a member of the Quito Process Group of Friends.

Human Trafficking of Children on the US Border | Lori Cohen

Recent images of toddlers tossed over the U.S.-Mexico border wall have fueled intense debates over national security, immigration, human rights, and public health. While some experts have labeled the current migration from Central America and Mexico to the United States as a “crisis,” fueled by a change in U.S. administrations, others attribute it as a response to economic, political and ecological upheavals in the region. A third group dismisses these arguments entirely, citing normal seasonal migration patterns. Preliminary research has shown, however, that children from the Northern Triangle are at elevated risk of commercial sexual exploitation (CSE) due to the COVID-19 pandemic in their home countries, their transit north, and at the U.S.- Mexico border.

ECPAT is a worldwide network of organizations working to end the commercial sexual exploitation of children. We will be assisting member organizations of the ECPAT network in examining risk factors that have exacerbated CSE vulnerabilities in the Northern Triangle, mapping existing resources in Central America and along the U.S. Mexico border, and presenting recommendations to enhance child protection in these spaces. This report will be used to educate U.S. policy makers as they develop foreign aid allocations in response to COVID-19. Fluency in Spanish is desirable but not a prerequisite for this course.

Forever Refugee | Jenna Krajeski

In the 1990s, tens of thousands of Congolese Tutsis crossed the border into Rwanda where the government, with the assistance of the UNHCR, the Red Cross, and other organizations and international governments, established refugee camps for those fleeing the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide. The refugees, who had escaped ethnic violence, poverty, and political turmoil in their home country, had their basic needs met in those camps. And yet decades later, in spite of initiatives by aid organizations and the Rwandan government, tens of thousands of refugees remain on those camps without access to equitable education and employment opportunities, or, in many cases, repatriation, Rwandan citizenship, or resettlement. A new generation of refugees have been born in the camps while elderly Congolese, keepers of a collective memory of home, have been buried there. Students will focus on one of those camps, Gihembe, in their investigation. Through conversations with refugees, aid workers, and government officials students will come to a greater understanding of what it means to be a lifelong refugee at a time when tens of millions of people around the world face similar futures. Their findings will be presented to UNHCR and Rwandan government officials.

Reimagining Sustainable Philanthropy to Help the World See | Shan Soe-Lin

This course will offer motivated students the opportunity to support the research partner, EssilorLuxottica, the world’s leading player in optical with $17B in annual sales, to achieve its mission to help people see more; be more; and live life to the fullest. Lukas Ruecker, President of EyeMed, EssilorLuxottica’s vision insurance division, has been tasked to develop EssilorLuxottica’s philanthropic and mission strategy. Students will work directly to support his efforts to develop a set of strategic options for how EssilorLuxottica should structure its mission-related investments and activities to help the more than 1 billion people in the world with unmet vision needs see better. This project offers students the opportunity to reimagine the philanthropic possibilities of the largest optical company in the world, and to scale EssilorLuxottica’s existing successful models serving the underprivileged, including charitable clinics in the US, and sustainable vision centers and microbusiness/social entrepreneurship platforms across the world from Sub-Saharan Africa to China. Students will gain: 1) experience conducting both quantitative and qualitative analyses; 2) a chance to travel either domestically or internationally to Paris, Milan or Singapore to support the engagement (Covid-permitting); 3) hands-on experience using strategic evidence to drive action; 4) client-management and consulting skills; and 5) most importantly, the opportunity to help the billions with poor vision address their shortcoming and realize their full potential.

Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Former Terrorists: Experiences Globally and Domestically | Muhammad Fraser-Rahim

This course will support the client, the Department of Homeland Security and the non-profit organization, Parents4Peace, a public health non profit empowering families, friends and communities to prevent radicalization, violence and extremism. This first of its kind partnership for our students will seek to in real time aide in addressing returning fighters and individuals who traveled overseas in support of racial, ethnic and other ideological extremist groups. Students will work in close proximity in supporting Parents4Peace as they aide in off-amping efforts to address vulnerable individuals and aide in their entry and re-entry back into societies. Students will work with the international 24/7 hotline, and work on specific individuals involvements (and new ones as they become accessible) and eventual journey back into society. The course will also look at broader state-level policy in addressing reintegration and deradicalization issues and its interplay with counterterrorism/preventive efforts which may or may not work in tandem. Finally, students will emerge and engage in current and future innovative approaches in combating extremism which incorporate whole of society approaches and work closely with DHS and Parents4Peace to co-construct final deliverables that will aide International and domestic US policymakers.

The Impact of China's Belt and Road Initiative on Organized Crime and Corruption in South-eastern Europe | Sue Eckert

This course explores issues at the intersection of crime in Southeastern Europe* and the role of China’s massive infrastructure investment program, the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI). Students will map BRI investments in the region, develop measures of potential impact of the BRI on organized crime and corruption, assess the implications for development in the region, and provide policy recommendations on the way forward. Transnational organized crime and corruption is a growing concern in many parts of the world and a topic of renewed policy attention under the Biden Administration. Criminal activities have a significant impact on evolving patterns of security, governance and development. While China’s BRI presents significant opportunities for Southeastern Europe development, especially in the areas of energy and infrastructure, potential risks exist related to organized crime and corruption. With its land and maritime economic corridors, roads, ports, railways, special economic zones, etc., the BRI has attracted attention of criminal entrepreneurs at the national and transnational level. The fact that 80% of BRI’s infrastructure construction projects in Central and Eastern Europe are in the six countries of the Western Balkans, and that most of these are financed by Chinese loans equivalent to a major percentage of the GDP of the relevant economies is a cause of concern for the US and European partners.

The research partner for this Capstone project is the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GI- TOC), an independent civil society organization based in Geneva, which provides a global platform and regional networks of civil society actors to work together against organized crime and corruption. The Observatory of Illicit Economies in the South Eastern Europe (SEE-Obs) works with a growing network of regional and local experts to monitor and counter organized crime in the Western Balkans and covers the broad spectrum of illicit economies in area.

*Countries include: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia.

Taiwan, the PRC and US Policy | John Weigold

The April 2019 Hong Kong Extradition Bill sparked waves of widespread protests across the Special Administrative Region (SAR) as Hongkongers demonstrated against the People’s Republic of China (PRC)’s expanded control over local judicial processes. Though the Extradition Bill was eventually withdrawn from the Hong Kong legislature, the PRC passed a new Hong Kong National Security Law that went into immediate effect in June 2020. The pervasive demonstrations in Hong Kong throughout 2019, as well as the PRC’s systematic repression of civil rights since June 2020, have sent reverberations across the Asia Pacific region. The closing political space in Hong Kong has particular implications for Taiwan, to which the PRC has historically laid claim. Assess Taiwan’s reaction to the PRC’s crackdown in Hong Kong. Students will research and write a detail policy brief with recommendations to be delivered to leadership at the United States Indo-Pacific Command. Some of the questions and objectives include an understanding of the historical dynamics and interests that continue to impact the relationship between (1) Taiwan and the PRC and (2) Hong Kong and the PRC. How are Taiwan’s domestic politics changing in reaction to the PRC’s crackdown in Hong Kong? What new dynamics have emerged since March 2020? How is Taiwan’s foreign policy changing in reaction to the PRC’s crackdown in Hong Kong? What are the regional policy implications for the U.S. given these changes in Taiwan’s domestic and foreign policy?

Afghanistan: Peace Process and Beyond | Andrew Wilder

In February 2020, the U.S. government and the Taliban signed an “Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan” in Doha, in which the U.S. agreed to a timetable to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by May 1, 2021. In return, the Taliban agreed to guarantee that no terrorist groups would use Afghanistan to threaten the US and our allies, and to participate in intra-Afghan negotiations that, among other things, would lead to a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire. While the U.S. started the process of withdrawing troops, the start of intra-Afghan talks were delayed by six months and then quickly got bogged down in lengthy negotiations over procedural rather than substantive issues. Soon after President Biden’s inauguration, his administration launched a review of the Afghanistan policy, including whether or not to meet the terms of the Doha Agreement to withdraw all U.S. troops by May 1st. On April 14th, President Biden announced that the objectives for which U.S. troops had been sent to Afghanistan – to prevent future attacks against the homeland – had been achieved, and that all U.S. troops would be withdrawn before September 11, 2021. President Biden emphasized that the U.S. would continue its support to Afghanistan, including support for an intra-Afghan peace process facilitated by the United Nations. In anticipation of a growing UN role in facilitating the peace process, the UN Secretary General has appointed a Personal Envoy on Afghanistan, and the UNAMA team in Kabul is actively researching and planning for different scenarios, including possible demands on the UN to support peace efforts. They have therefore requested the Yale Capstone course to research and write a policy paper examining options for a possible future UN peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan in the event of progress in peace talks. This would include looking at lessons from various types of peacekeeping missions in other contexts, examining the Afghanistan context and its implications for a peacekeeping mission, and looking at some of the practical issues of how many peacekeepers would be needed, what countries would be best suited to contribute, appropriate mandates, approximate budgets, etc… The course will include background reading, facilitated discussions with the faculty instructor, guest lectures by leading officials, experts and other stakeholders (Afghan and international), and (COVID protocols permitting) a trip to Washington, D.C. to meet with relevant experts and officials at the State Department, NSC, DOD, Hill, USIP and humanitarian agencies.

Scaling Up Innovations with the World Health Organization | Bina Valsangkar

Adopted by the United Nations in 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 global goals to end poverty, protect the planet, and improve the lives of everyone by 2030. Goal #3, “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages,” consists of several ambitious, important targets, such as ending the AIDS, malaria, and TB epidemics, and ending all preventable child deaths.

The SDGs are a powerful, public commitment from countries belonging to the UN, and many countries adopt policy that will help them reach SDG targets. COVID-19 rightfully diverted enormous time and resources to fighting the pandemic, putting the world far behind on meeting most SDG goals and targets by 2030.

To reach the SDG health targets by 2030, The WHO wants to aggressively scale up proven innovations in medical devices, healthcare delivery systems, and healthcare financing mechanisms. This course, focusing on devices and delivery systems, will examine how WHO can assist member countries in bringing proven interventions to scale. Students will review and collect qualitative and quantitative data to assess current and projected impact of scale-up of various innovations, and provide practical frameworks, tools, and recommendations to the WHO that can be used to assist member countries.