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.

Questions on the capstone? Please contact Casey King, director of the capstone course.

Fall 2020 Capstone Projects

Gender in the Latin American Criminal Justice System | Paco Palmieri

Capstone Collaboration: CICAD is carrying out a diagnostic study in Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Jamaica and The Dominican Republic to collect and analyze data to better understand how sensitive the criminal justice system is to gender when offering alternatives to incarceration for low level drug-related offenses. The diagnostic study will also inform and support the design of appropriate interventions or adjustments to current alternatives to incarceration for these populations. CICAD seeks to generate baseline data based on these studies to assist drug authorities to improve their ability to track and report sentencing outcomes while enhancing their ability to disaggregate by gender. This type of data would contribute to the development of effective drug policies and programs that are gender sensitive and address the drug problem without contributing to gender inequality. Additionally, recommendations would be made on improving interventions based on the findings of these studies.

NCDs: A Global Security Issue in Times of the COVID-19 Pandemic | Nicholas Alipui

The Capstone course gives students a unique opportunity to understand the process of global goal setting and the implementation of international health protocols. In the context of the unfolding C-19 pandemic, the SDGs and international health regulations – IHRs, the students investigate the impact of C-19 in diverse socio-economic settings, carry out a literature review to understand the impact on the elderly, people living with pre-existing NCDs and conduct causal analyses to explain the disproportionate impact on people of color with similar comorbidities. Based on the situation analyses, students develop write-ups on (i) pandemic preparedness (ii) inter-governmental negotiations in global health diplomacy and (iii) specific country case studies. The students conduct in-depth research on how NCDs are categorized and distributed across the world, investigate strategies for NCD prevention, early detection and control. The students work with the clients UNICEF / ASTRAZENECA and PLAN to formulate an evidence-based strategy for an Advocacy program on NCD prevention aiming to mobilize young people in Angola, Brazil and South Africa as “agents of change” to prevent NCDs.

Safeguarding Humanitarian Action in Sanctioned Countries | Sue Eckert

This course explores the challenges of advancing multiple United States policy objectives of ensuring the provision of vital humanitarian assistance to countries and regions in need, while also maintaining strong counterterrorism and sanctions measures to thwart the financing of terrorism and other illicit finance. How can both policy objectives be promoted and balanced, on the national and international levels? Sanctions have become the tool of choice for both the US and United Nations in addressing the broad range of challenges to international peace and security—from countering terrorism and stemming nuclear proliferation and armed conflict, to protecting civilians and promoting human rights. Such instruments have unintended consequences, however, and in recent years, it has become evident that policies adopted since 9/11 to fight terrorism and illicit finance have contributed to the “derisking” of humanitarian organizations.  Financial institutions, fearful of running afoul of regulatory policies, have been reluctant to send funds to sanctioned countries even when permitted, and refused services or delayed transfers for NGOs, negatively affecting humanitarian activities and programs. The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted and exacerbated the challenges, contributing to the urgency for solutions.

In collaboration with the Department of State’s Office of Sanctions and Counterterrorism, students will engage with government, NGOs, and financial stakeholders to understand the intricacies of US and UN sanctions in order to develop options to improve processes to safeguard humanitarian action, and address banks’ derisking of the NGO sector.

Gender and Adaptation: Impact of climate change and environmental factors on women households in Garissa, Kenya | Fauziya Abdi

In North Eastern Kenya, the impacts of climate change, environmental and economic factors have created a situation of increasing vulnerability for poor and marginalized households. This in turn has made the region susceptible to insecurity due to intercommunal violence and violent extremism. Climate change is affecting men and women differently. This course will provide opportunity for students to support a great client, WomanKind Kenya, a non-governmental organization working with vulnerable communities in Kenya,  to a) review their current programming and existing policies together with their local partners and b) make recommendation for a model adaptive system for the client, focusing on gender aware and pro-poor adaptive responses for community development.  This course will provide students with 1) practical experience to understand the nexus between gender, security and climate change 2) experience to conduct qualitative analysis 3) a dive into understanding communities living in arid/semi-arid regions of Kenya and most importantly 4) a rewarding experience to contribute to the lives of vulnerable women and children.

United States Special Operations Command in Great Power Competition | Montgomery Erfourth

United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) is the leading command for our nations Special Operations Forces (SOF). The headquarters is responsible for training and applying SOF to national security issues around the world.  With the return of great power competition, USSOCOM must not only continue to counter violent extremists, it must simultaneously address actions by nation states intent on reducing American influence and threaten our interests.  In an environment where our nation may cooperate, compete, and enter into conflict with these nation states, USSOCOM must decide where best to employ SOF unique capabilities to advance and protect select American interests.  Which interests, where, and why requires a detailed understanding of global American interests.  This is a daunting research problem. In close coordination with USSOCOM strategists, the Capstone team will develop a proposal that details specific American interests and their often-interdependent relationship with other variables.  This requires a review of American foreign policy objectives, developing a prioritized list of geographically set – cognitive – and virtual interests, determining their priority by region or domain, and then prioritizing the interests between the regions and domains.  The team must demonstrate relevance for the military instrument of national power, SOF in particular where appropriate. The final proposal will be a key element of information for USSOCOM strategists to use in developing a global campaign to best apply SOF in the protection and advancement of vital U.S. interests.

Eliminating poor vision in a generation - helping the OneSight Foundation to achieve scale | Shan Soe-Lin

This course will allow students the opportunity to support the client, the OneSight Foundation, to achieve its mission to end poor vision by 2050.  Students will work directly to support the foundation’s Executive Director with strategic support across a number of different fronts to assist the foundation to improve the reach and impact of its programs that currently provide 20M people worldwide with access to basic vision and eye-care services.  Students could be called upon to assist the Foundation with its Covid response and risk mitigation efforts, propose new strategies to improve the sustainability of its programs, and estimate the costs of scaling up OneSight vision programs and quantify the resulting impact and economic value of reducing poor vision, and calculate the return-on-investment.  Students will gain: 1) experience conducting both quantitative and qualitative analyses; 2) a chance to travel either domestically or internationally to charitable sites (Covid-permitting); 3) hands-on experience using evidence to drive action; 4) client-management and consulting skills; and 5) most importantly, contribute to a rewarding initiative that will ultimately improve the lives of children with poor vision.

Building Resilience in Afghanistan: Natural Disasters, Conflict and Climate Change | Naysan Adlparvar

This course will provide students the opportunity to work with the client, Afghanaid (an international NGO) to strengthen their resilience building program in Afghanistan. Afghanaid has recently adopted an eco-system driven and conflict-sensitive approach to building the resilience of upland Afghan communities to natural disasters and the impacts of climate change. Requested support includes: (i) analysis of global lessons learned regarding an ecosystem approach; (ii) exploration of historical trends in environmental degradation and modeling of future climate change impacts; and (iii) investigation of the relationship between conflict and resilience, including assessing the impacts of conflict upon Afghan ecosystems and identifying methods to avoid inflammation of natural resource-based conflicts during program delivery. To achieve this, students will: (a) review Afghanaid’s project documents; (b) conduct a series of literature reviews; (c) undertake interviews with experts on Afghanistan and the ecosystem approach; and (d) analyze environmental and natural disaster GIS databases. Ultimately, a report that blends theoretical insights, analytical findings and operational guidance will be prepared and presented to Afghanaid. This report will be used to improve the resilience programming of the client, and its NGO and UN partners in Afghanistan and beyond.