Graduating PAFs Present on their Capstone Research

2017 capstones
May 31, 2017
Graduating PAFs presented throughout the April and May to fellow Fellows and the PAT on their unique capstone projects, culminating in concluding their scholarship and research in their respective Master's programs:
Katie on Grassroots Advocacy with Girls Inc.
As part of her capstone project for the Political Management program, Katie created a set of research-driven recommendations for Girls Inc., where she volunteered throughout the semester, to grow their grassroots advocacy programs. Through interviews with leaders at the National Rifle Association and Association for American Retired Persons, she identified successful organizational and grassroots structures that Girls Inc. can adapt and use to empower girls to be strong, smart, and bold. For Katie, this project was an opportunity to blend her lifelong passion for empowering women and girls with the tools, lessons, and research methods she gained from her program.
Alec on Updating Metrics in the EPA via the National Academy of Public Administration
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) oversees many aspects of clean water policy throughout the country, one of which deals with the reduction and control of combined sewer overflows (CSOs). CSOs occur during wet weather events that overwhelm sewer systems and force them to discharge untreated waste into surface waters, with significant consequences for the environment and public health. This past semester, my capstone team worked with the National Academy of Public Administration to support efforts of the EPA to update the metrics it uses to determine whether localities have the financial capability to invest in CSO control infrastructure. Our research uncovered a number of alternative metrics for community affordability and financial capability that would better protect vulnerable populations and we ultimately recommended that, before anything else, the EPA must develop an up-to-date and comprehensive system to track local CSO control efforts.
Max on Assessing Education Benchmarks for the National College Access Network
Max worked on a project with the National College Access Network (NCAN) entitled “Which Services Matter Most? Findings from NCAN’s Benchmarking Project.” His team analyzed a 300,000 student dataset to determine which college access services offered by NCAN members lead to an increased likelihood in postsecondary enrollment and/or completion for the students receiving the services. The team found that students receiving FAFSA help and college admissions test prep in their service mix have a higher likelihood of enrolling and completing. The finding holds true across different demographic groups and supports the team’s recommendation for NCAN members to include FAFSA help and test prep in their service mixes. The recommendation will ultimately help NCAN and its membership work toward their collective goal of increasing college access for low-income, first generation students as it informs college access service providers, the NCAN membership, which services matter most. 
Marcus on Health Disparities in DC
Marcus’ thesis focused on the relationship between neighborhoods and health. Existing research has established a link between neighborhood context and health outcomes. Ultimately, neighborhoods who have lower socioeconomic status are also neighborhoods that have lesser access to healthcare and higher chronic disease burden. He founded that improving neighborhood food environments were associated with lower systolic blood pressure control only for men, but not for women. Contrastingly, improving neighborhood food environments were associated with lower A1C for women, but not for men. In sum, the areas within D.C. that have the highest chronic disease scores are also the areas impacted by lower access to healthy food, have higher racial segregation, and lower socioeconomic status.These results add to the limited literature examining the utility of the innovative food environment measures and the relationship they have on health outcomes for urban residents. 
Angela on Evaluating DCPS Student Mental Health Services
As part of her MPP capstone, Angela worked in a team of five MPP students. The team conducted a project on behalf of the DCPS Student Mental Health Division. From 2011-2012 DC Public Schools (DCPS) completely decentralized the school psychologists and social workers, placing these mental health providers directly in schools and under the authority of school administrators rather than DCPS Mental Health Division Program Managers. Since the transition, across the District, there has been an increase in the amount of non-mental health related duties that school psychologists and social workers are expected to perform. At the same time, Program Managers have reported a growing discontent among school mental health providers. Angela and her team conducted a mixed methods study to further explore the challenges created by decentralization, and delivered to the client four recommendations to address these challenges.
Zinhle on “The Minority Vote”
Zinhle focused her capstone on a documentary film titled “The Minority Vote,” which follows five millennial voters on their civic engagement and journey through the most recent U.S. election cycle. This is Zinhle’s second documentary film, the first of which, “Hands Up,” received several awards and reception in seven film festivals. Her second film, made possible by a media team and her thesis advisor, also features an interactive, educational website and original score, as well as an educational toolkit with a guiding curriculum for students and educators to use in purchasing her film and holding their independent screenings of the film. Zinhle was inspired to film “The Minority Vote” to inspire millennials to get informed about candidates, mobilize and vote. 

Zunara Naeem

Zunara is a second year fellow recently completing a Master of Public Administration; she is now pursuing a certificate in Nonprofit Management. This year, her professional placement is with the Dean's Office of Health Sciences in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences.