GPIA's Practice-Based Learning components—the International Field Program, internships, and the final project Practice Option—combine skills courses, workshops and on-the-ground experience to give students the knowledge, training, and confidence to enter the professional arena.All Master of Arts (MA) students have a final project requirement, which means a choice between writing a thesis (Thesis Option) or undertaking a Practicum project (Practice Option). Students who choose the Practice Option must take Practicum in International Affairs (PIA) I and PIA II in sequence.
In the first semester course PIA I: Project Design, students choose an actual project and then learn the tools—needs assessment, logical framework, strategic design, implementation, proposal and report writing, budgeting, monitoring and evaluation—typically used in the "project cycle." In the following semester during PIA II: Project Implementation, students are dedicated to producing the deliverables of that same project.
PIA I should be taken in your penultimate semester; PIA II in final semester. PIA I: Project Design can also be taken as an elective by GPIA non-Practice students and non-GPIA students. Master of Science (MS) students do not have a final project requirement.
Students will work on discrete assignments of several months' duration
for client organizations from the not-for-profit, public, and private
sector and multilateral agencies.
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In conjunction with the client, the team first clarifies the assignment and drafts a Terms of Reference. Then, over the course of the semester, team members undertake research and data collection, conduct analysis, and write a report or produce a final product according to the client, and then present their findings to the organization. Most clients meet with students at least a few times throughout the semester.
After the first week classes are not lectures, but rather project management sessions. Teams have a weekly meeting time with their faculty supervisor throughout the semester. The faculty supervisor acts as a project manager, meeting with students to review work and offering technical guidance as needed.
The course is not run nor are projects completed as an academic exercise; the project work and final product are meant to be used by the client organization.
Past projects have included the following:
Yes. At the end of the semester, each team develops and rehearses a formal presentation, and then presents its work and results before the GPIA faculty. The Final Presentation is an integral part of the Practicum. Public speaking and making a presentation are useful skills, as well as being part of many people's jobs.
A major objective of the Practicum is to serve as a transition from the academic to the professional world. For students in their final semester, especially those about to graduate and join the working world, the Practicum is treated as a "consultancy" rather than an internship, emphasizing deadlines and professional standards for work products. Projects are substantial, rigorous, and challenging, and student-consultants are expected to produce professional-standard work. Unlike a Thesis, the Practicum project work is not academic. A work product will not be theoretical, but is produced to be used by the client in their work.
Students should be in their final semester and have completed 33 credits to register for the Practicum. Clients assign the PIA substantial projects; the time needed to complete these projects is therefore significant. To be in this class and on a team, each person must commit significant time. All teams have a regular meeting outside of class and often on the weekend. In addition, there are periods, particularly toward the end of semester, when large blocks of time are needed for completion of the project on deadline.
Students who work full-time and are taking a full course load should consider whether they will be able to meet their obligations to the project and team. It might be better to undertake the Practicum, for example, as a single and final class, or during a later semester when there is more time. If your schedule is such that you will never have extra time and flexibility, you may want to consider writing a thesis, which can be done entirely on your own schedule.
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