Public Engagement

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  • 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.

    For more information, see

    Current students: See

  • FAQ

    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.