International Affairs MA Practicum | Milano School NYC


  • 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), completing a portfolio of research (Research Portfolio), or undertaking a Practicum project (Practice Option). Students who choose the Practice Option must take Practicum in International Affairs (PIA) I and II in sequence.

    In the first semester course PIA I, students choose an actual project and then learn to use the tools typically employed in the "project cycle," including needs assessment, logical framework, strategic design, implementation, proposal and report writing, budgeting, and monitoring and evaluation. In the following semester, in PIA II: Project Implementation, students produce the deliverables of that project.

    PIA I should be taken in the penultimate semester and PIA II in the final semester. PIA I 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.

    Course Information

    Practicum in International Affairs I and II

    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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    What can I expect from the PIA course?

    In conjunction with the client, the team first clarifies the assignment and drafts 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.

    What kinds of projects are typically available?

    Past projects have included the following:

    • Developing material for refugee and immigrant schoolchildren and conducting staff trainings for the International Rescue Committee
    • Producing a toolkit for field staff training on the Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse for the International Rescue Committee
    • A comparative analysis paper for Human Rights Watch on amnesties granted in Cambodia, Chile, and Mozambique
    • Conducting research on evidence in the Milosevic trial for Human Rights Watch
    • Conducting a survey on New York City health facilities' capacity to recognize and treat immigrant victims of torture for Doctors of the World
    • Producing an organizational needs assessment for the Consortium for Haitian Empowerment
    • Producing policy and analysis papers on universal children's "social security" for UNICEF, equitable aid distribution to fragile states for UNICEF, and human trafficking outreach for the International Rescue Committee
    • Writing a grant proposal to construct and fund a health center in Kenya for the East African Center for the Empowerment of Women and Children
    • Making an advocacy film on international HIV and AIDS activists for the ATHENA Women's Network

    Will I have to present my work on the project?

    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.

    What are the key differences between the Practice Option and the Thesis Option?

    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.

    How much time should I expect to spend on a Practicum project during the semester?

    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.

  • International Field Program

    The GPIA International Field Program provides a platform for emerging practitioners and researchers to gain experience while following a rigorous course of study. The IFP combines extensive pre-departure preparation with in-country seminars, professional internships, project work and opportunities for independent research with faculty supervision. Students may work with community-based organizations, NGOs, international organizations, and national or local governments. Projects may focus on urban and community development, postconflict state building, human rights advocacy, citizen journalism, long-term monitoring and evaluation, or other themes. Since its inception in 2002, the IFP has sent more than 1,000 students to 29 countries, from Argentina and Uganda to Lebanon and China.

    Practicum in International Affairs

    During a Practicum in International Affairs (PIA) — one of the final project options at GPIA — a team of students works for a client organization conducting research, program or project design, or monitoring and evaluation; building communication platforms; or engaging in a number of other activities. Clients have included UN agencies, major INGOs such as Transparency International, community-based organizations in the United States and abroad, social enterprises and more. Through the PIA, students develop the analytical and applied skills necessary for well-rounded professionals who are prepared to address challenging social problems, whether they work in the public, private, or nonprofit sector.

    United Nations Summer Study

    The United Nations Summer Study (UNSS) program puts graduate and undergraduate students on the ground in the United Nations and in New York City. Unlike other UN study programs, UNSS takes you beyond a narrow focus on security and diplomacy to investigate development, human rights, humanitarian action, peace building, and environmental issues. UNSS course work prepares you to understand and engage with contemporary issues, policies, and debates in international affairs. UNSS internships and practicums, not found in any other UN summer program, enable you to gain hands-on experience in the UN system. Practicum placements include United Nations agencies, nongovernmental organizations, civil society groups, and research institutes that work with the UN.

    Practice Courses

    Beyond the core sequence of PIA I and II, students can learn a wide range of skills in GPIA courses that address monitoring and evaluation, geographic information systems, research design, and media production. In allied programs in Management, Urban Policy and the School of Media Studies there are courses in fundraising and financial management, policy design and assessment, data visualization, community engagement and organization, leadership development and entrepreneurship, media production and management and much more. The range of offerings is such that working with their advisers students can tailor a pathway through the curriculum that both broadens their understanding of what practice can be and deepens their skills for pursuing their goals.


    Students pursuing an MA or MS at GPIA are able to take full advantage of the incomparable range of organizations working on international issues in New York City. The extraordinary range of international NGOs, intergovernmental institutions, globally important companies, and government agencies provides a unique set of opportunities for internships. Milano’s internship office will work with you to find opportunities but so too will faculty and other students. Internships are a powerful complement to the curriculum in GPIA: they provide opportunities to apply theory to organizational practices, can be the sources of Practicum or Thesis projects, and for many students lead to employment after receiving a degree.