The Capstone Experience is the centerpiece of the CWRU MPH Program. A Public Health field practicum required of all MPH students, this 9-credit course places students in health related settings to work on projects of mutual interest to the agency or organization and the student. The experience gives students the opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills they have acquired through their academic course work to a problem involving the health of the community. Students learn to communicate with target groups in an effective manner, to order priorities for major projects according to definable criteria, to use computers for specific applications relevant to public health, to identify ethical, social, and cultural issues relating to public health policies, research and interventions, to identify the process by which decisions are made within the organization or agency, and to identify and coordinate the use of resources at the site.
The nature of the project will be determined jointly by the student, the field site director and the student’s faculty advisor, and will be outlined in a Capstone project proposal to be approved by the advisory committee and submitted to the MPH Program Director. If the project as described is approved, all interested parties will sign their approval on a proposal cover sheet before the beginning of the project. (Students should obtain a “Capstone Kit,” available in the MPH Office and online, as a companion guide for the Capstone Experience). During the field practicum, the student will complete a service-oriented project mutually beneficial to the student’s academic progress and the needs of the field placement site. The MPH student is required to take an organized, scholarly approach to the topic, and to produce a Master’s Degree Essay of publishable quality relating to the outcomes of the project. The student is supported by his/her Capstone Advisory Committee consisting of at least three members: an MPH faculty advisor, a primary preceptor at the Capstone Site, and a content expert relevant to the project topic. Students are graded on a pass/fail basis for the Capstone Experience. The grade consists of an assessment of their performance in the context of the field placement, as well as their preparation and presentation of the Master’s Essay. The Capstone Advisory Committee determines the grade collaboratively. In the event that a student’s Capstone does not receive a satisfactory review, students can continue to register for and work on the project until its satisfactory completion. Students should have completed core required coursework prior to their Capstone Experience.
The Capstone Experience is sometimes completed as a semester long (16 week) course with ten “contact hours” per week expected between the Capstone student and the site. Additional effort is expected outside of these hours as necessary for fulfillment of the Capstone plan. If the Capstone project is more appropriately completed as a longitudinal project over several semesters, students may elect to seek approval to complete their project in a 3 credit/6 credit or a 3 credit/3 credit/3 credit pattern. Splitting Capstone credits over multiple semesters requires students to submit progress reports to the advisory committee so their work can be evaluated on a semester basis. Capstone credit is not intended for project planning. Projects must be planned and approved before students may register for Capstone credit.
Projects are broadly oriented toward a problem involving the health of the community but may differ substantially in format. Projects should be relevant to the student’s chosen major. The Capstone Essay is presented to peers and advisors during the biennial Innovations in Population Health Conference in the semester in which they intend to graduate. Samples of Capstone Essays are available in the MPH Office. Students can also submit a manuscript in lieu of the traditional Capstone Essay. Examples of available placement sites and types of projects are listed on the next page. Students are encouraged to pursue other sites of their own choosing as well. The Capstone Experience is supported by MPHP 507 - Building a Public Health Project and the Capstone Kit publication.
At a minimum, every Capstone Experience should address the following competencies:
Design a health-related program that could be implemented at the Capstone site, including instructions, procedures, manuals, and materials. Alternatively, participate in the design of a new program initiated by the Capstone site.
Participate in a substantive way towards the implementation of a program already planned at the Capstone site.
Complete a substantial new analysis of existing data (e.g., dataset, survey, or claims database) on a health-related topic and report on the results.
Design and implement a community intervention supported by the Capstone site.
Evaluate an existing program to assess the effectiveness and outcomes of the program.
Health Policy Statement/Advocacy
Develop a health policy position paper related to the mission of the Capstone site and advocate for its approval. Alternatively, for some students, a position paper may be written on a health topic of local, state, regional, national, or international importance.
Population Health Research
Research the determinants or distribution of a health problem identified by the Capstone site.
Undertake in-depth analysis of the health characteristics of a defined population or community of interest to the Capstone site.
Public Health Services & Systems Research
Research the nature of access to health care, quality and cost of services, or evaluation of the provision and design of health services offered by the Capstone site.
Survey an identified population on a topic of mutual interest with the Capstone site.
Individual faculty may have projects suitable for Capstone Experiences as well.