Master of Public Service Administration (MPSA) Capstones
During their second year, MPSA students participate in two semesters of capstone research courses. These courses allow students to tackle a problem or project in the real world, often working in conjunction with a government agency or nonprofit organization. Designed to test the knowledge and abilities students have developed through their previous classes and experiences, capstones necessitate strong teamwork, careful research, writing ability, and often a large amount of ingenuity in identifying ways to approach an issue or find a solution.
Past and current capstones include the following:
Development in Rural Texas: An Assessment of TEEX Economic Development Reports
Client: Knowledge Division of the Texas Engineering Extension Service
The Development in Rural Texas report provides an evaluation and assessment of economic development recommendations made by the Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX). Due to the nature of its work, TEEX seldom has an opportunity to revisit the communities it has worked with in the past. In 2011, the Bush School of Government and Public Service was contacted with the opportunity to assist in evaluating several of the economic development recommendations and plans put in place by TEEX. The Capstone group evaluated ten TEEX reports that were written from 2006-2009. Their subjects vary between facility development plans to regional economic development strategies.
Immigration Reform: Policies and Implementation
How will comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) affect federal agencies? Determining the specific implementation demands likely to result from comprehensive immigration reform legislation without knowing the specific policy elements that will be enacted is a difficult task. This Capstone class presented a broad overview of the effects of likely policy changes by conducting in-depth interviews with eleven-stakeholder groups, a comprehensive literature review, detailed investigation of relevant case studies, and analyzing public opinion polls. Probable areas of policy focus identified through stakeholder interviews were border and interior enforcement, employer regulations, guest worker/visa programs, and legalization. These policy focus areas create corresponding implementation concerns for the numerous agencies charged with immigration reform implementation, including: technology, personnel, management, and funding. Technology concerns for employer regulations would include improving the current E-Verify system to avoid errors. Personnel concerns for legalization would include capacity strain for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services as it confronts the likely increase in legalization applications. Management concerns for enforcement would include improving collaboration and communication among federal agencies to improve database linkage and information sharing. Funding concerns include additional appropriations for agencies to deal with increased enforcement activities, application processing, and the like. Regardless of the legislation passed, agencies will be forced to address long-standing challenges. Many of these challenges can be addressed only through costly measures, thus, contracting options offer a viable solution. Several programs provide future growth platforms for contractors, including technology consulting and management consulting. The uncertainty surrounding the immigration reform debate prevents definitive analysis of what changes CIR will bring but, by identifying policy areas and implementation concerns, this Capstone class provides an impartial and enduring approach to the issue of immigration reform.
A Study of Dual Credit Access and Effectiveness in the State of Texas
Client: Greater Texas Foundation
In 2010, with the support of the Greater Texas Foundation (GTF), the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University initiated a study of dual credit opportunities in the state of Texas. Through a Capstone course directed by Prof. Jeryl L. Mumpower, Director of the Master of Public Service and Administration Program, this group was charged with analyzing and presenting data related to both the degree of access to dual credit resources throughout Texas, as well as the effectiveness of dual credit opportunities by type. The Greater Texas Foundation further charged the Capstone group with examining the dual credit opportunities for minority, low-income, and rural populations. Throughout a year-long course of study, the Capstone team worked to collect data regarding these issues. We hope that this study will provide a valuable resource for our client, the Greater Texas Foundation, as well as for researchers and practitioners in Texas and throughout the nation.
In examining dual credit in the state of Texas, the Capstone team identified seven research questions of particular interest to GTF, falling within two topic areas: access to dual credit and the effectiveness of current dual credit programs.
Access to Dual Credit Programs
1. Where are dual credit programs available in the state of Texas?
2. How many students participate in dual credit programs?
3. What is the level of participation for rural, economically disadvantaged, and minority students?
4. What factors affect whether students participate in dual credit courses?
Effectiveness of Dual Credit Programs
5. How does postsecondary performance of dual credit participants compare to students who didn‘t participate in dual credit programs?
6. Do certain high schools have dual credit programs with graduates who fare better than those from other programs?
7. Which dual credit models have the best rates of postsecondary enrollment and graduation among their graduates?
This study has involved two primary efforts. The first was an extensive review of relevant literature to provide a thorough backdrop for analyses of the Texas situation. The second was original analyses of data collected and compiled by members of the Bush School Capstone team.
Texas Department of Public Safety Homeland Security Threats and Operations
Client: Texas Department of Public Safety
The capstone team worked on two capstone projects for the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). One was an assessment of spillover violence from Mexican cartels and transnational gangs in Texas, including topics such as the definition of spillover violence, the characteristics of violent crimes related to drug trafficking organizations (DTOs), the victims of the violence, causes of the violence, quantifying DTO violence, and whether the violence in Mexico is moving to the United States. The research also included the national and border state perspective of spillover violence, federal funding levels for border security, programs to address spillover violence and border security, and spillover violence data collection mechanisms used in Arizona, New Mexico and California compared to Texas. The second project was the impact of violent domestic gangs in Texas, including information on gang size and membership in Texas, sources and affiliations of Texas gangs, and gang recruitment and growth. The team also provided DPS with feedback and local evaluation of the statewide gang-monitoring database, allowing DPS to consider ways to improve the system and increase its use.
Mapping the Nonprofit Infrastructure: A Comparison of Capacity Building and Related Resources in Texas and Beyond
Client: OneStar Foundation
The "Mapping the Nonprofit Infrastructure: A Comparison of Capacity Building and Related Resources in Texas and Beyond" Capstone Project was conducted for OneStar Foundation: Texas Center for Social Impact in Austin, Texas, with support from the Meadows Foundation in Dallas, Texas. This capstone research is a follow-up study to a single study of Texas' nonprofit infrastructure, carried out by a Bush School Capstone Team during 2009-2010. In the present study, a national comparison of the nonprofit infrastructures of all 50 U.S. states and a detailed analysis of the nonprofit infrastructure of Texas and seven comparison states was performed, in an effort to answer the following research questions: What is the relationship between the strength of the nonprofit sector and the nonprofit infrastructure? How do the Texas nonprofit infrastructure and systems of support compare to other states, and how can the infrastructure and systems be improved?
Using a mixed-method quantitative and qualitative research design (involving economic data from the National Center for Charitable Statistics, Foundation Center, US Census and labor data, GIS analysis, and document analysis) and extant framework for nonprofit infrastructure (developed by David Renz, University of Missouri-Kansas City, Midwest Center for Nonprofits, 2008), the nonprofit infrastructures of the states were compared and contrasted to better understand the characteristics of strong and weak infrastructures. Texas was found to have a fairly weak infrastructure. Recommendations were made to strengthen the nonprofit infrastructure in Texas, with emphases on ways to strengthen charitable giving, nonprofit association, and self-regulation and to enhance collaboration and networking among foundations and nonprofit management support organizations. In tandem to this research, capstone students also carried out a literature review and analysis of statewide survey of nonprofits relating to capacity building needs, in support of the Texas legislative Task Force on Strengthening Nonprofit Capacity, a task force organized by Texas Health and Human Services Commission under House Bill (H.B.) 492 and implemented in partnership with OneStar Foundation.
Expansion Management Model
Client: Abriendo Puertas
Abriendo Puertas is a small, education non-profit using parental engagement initiatives to reduce the number of Hispanic student dropouts in Texas. To date, Abriendo Puertas has seen much success - both in recognition by external organizations and in the wide support of its parent participants and volunteers. As such, Abriendo Puertas hopes to expand its program across the state, most notably to the Fort Worth area. The nonprofit is interested in solidifying its current operations in the hope of expanding its impact.
Building upon previous research, an Expansion Management Model (EMM) was produced to guide Abriendo Puertas' efforts. Combining research-based best practices, an analysis of the nonprofit's current practices (based primarily on an internal assessment), and a survey of the parents involved with Abriendo Puertas, the EMM includes tailored recommendations to Abriendo Puertas' needs. The Capstone team made four key recommendations:
- Solidify the organization's mission,
- Expand and diversify the board of directors,
- Complete a strategic marketing plan, and
- Develop a database to track the organization's parent participants and volunteers.
The Capstone report includes the final Expansion Management Model, complete with a full set of recommendations, a description of the Assessment Tool and Survey, as well as a demographic analysis identifying possible expansion points within the state of Texas.
- Executive Summary
- Final Report
- Assessment Tool
- English Parent Survey
- Spanish Parent Survey
Introducing... Objectivity: A Texas Redistricting Report
Client: Texas Legislature
Seven Bush School MPSA students spent the spring 2011 semester working with the Texas Legislature in a policy-related capacity. Two reports and a video (the video is accessible at http://www.youtube.com/tamubushschool) were produced by the Capstone team. In the video, Capstone students explain what they did during the session and how their Bush School education enhanced their legislative work.
The report, “Inside Scoop,” tells the story of the 82nd session of the Texas Legislature from the perspective of the students who were there. It offers insights on important substantive issues; the legislative process itself; and, of course, the always-intriguing politics of a legislative session. “Introducing…Objectivity” focuses on one of the most compelling issues of the 82nd session: redistricting. The report provides a review of current redistricting practices across the states and develops four criteria that would increase the objectivity of the process. Using those criteria, the report offers three different alternatives for redrawing the boundaries of congressional districts in Texas.
An Analysis of the Civil Service System of the City of New Orleans
Client: Business Council Of New Orleans And The River Region
The capstone team conducted a comprehensive review of all New Orleans Civil Service System policies and institutional arrangements. The research activity included reviews of the literature on civil service systems; analyses of legal and constitutional requirements for New Orleans and the State of Louisiana; in-depth interviews with dozens of experts and stakeholders who have direct experience with the New Orleans Civil Service System; reviews of all reports, planning documents and evaluations of the New Orleans Civil Service System; and case study analyses of comparable cities and states. The students identified several problems in system recruiting, operations, training, and evaluation and made specific recommendations to overcome these difficulties. The New Orleans mayor has embraced these recommendations and begun implementing them in the Civil Service System. The students participated in city hall briefings and news conferences highlighting their recommendations.
Diversity of Graduates from Professional Degree Programs: The Challenge of Achieving Diverse Applicant Pools and Implementing Successful Recruiting Efforts
Client: Congressional Research Service
The capstone team (1) obtained and analyzed information about pools of job candidates from historically under-represented groups in certain disciplines and (2) reported on mechanisms that had proved effective for recruiting and retaining such candidates. The team analyzed trends and characteristics of these potential applicant pools and identified schools that have graduated the largest numbers of candidates from historically under-represented groups in specific disciplines. The report presents a literature review concerning practices of public and private entities to create and maintain workforce diversity by recruiting and retaining persons from historically under-represented groups. The report also summarizes successful recruitment and retention strategies based on theoretical and practical frameworks used by government agencies, non-profit organizations, and the private sector.
Master of Public Service and Administration Program Review and Evaluation
Client: MPSA Program Director, Bush School of Government and Public Service
Assessing the quality and effectiveness of educational programs is becoming increasingly important. Ensuring the quality of Master of Public Administration (MPA) programs, like that at the Bush School of Government and Public Service, is even more critical. This capstone designed and implemented evaluative methods to assess the MPSA program. The group designed and conducted data collection and analysis to identify the programís strengths and limitations by collecting alumni feedback. This project helped the MPSA program meet accreditation requirements and provided input to the next self-study report to be completed by the program during the 2012-2013 academic year. The capstone created and distributed an alumni survey to MPSA graduates and conducted alumni focus groups. The capstone report consists of a literature review followed by a summary of the research methodologies applied in the project, and concludes with results and a discussion of the findings.
Organizational Resiliency after Hurricane Ike
Client: Local Municipalities in Louisiana's Cameron Parish and Texas' Bolivar Peninsula, With the Financial Support of the Bush-Clinton Coastal Recovery Fund
Hurricane Ike was the third most destructive hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. Cameron Parish in Louisiana and the Southeast Texas coast of the Bolivar Peninsula, still recovering from earlier hurricanes, sustained catastrophic damage. The capstone focused on three specific long-term resiliency planning projects for client consideration: (1) long-term recovery and resiliency economic development goals; (2) policy options to meet these goals within the context of federal, state, and county/parish policies; and (3) the strengths and weaknesses of each, including implementation challenges. The Cameron Parish work involved analysis of a housing survey of 600 Parish individuals and families, a research project on Geographic Information Systems, and research on business economic factors. The Bolivar Peninsula work involved deliverables to county officials and community members, including an initial research report on economic development opportunities and a second report providing additional details on selected economic development projects identified by Bolivar officials and community members.
- Preliminary Proposals for Economic Development on the Bolivar Peninsula
- Final Proposals for Economic Development on the Bolivar Peninsula
- Briefing Report: Cameron Parish Housing Survey
- Cameron Parish Business Attraction Report
- Geographic Information System Report for Cameron Parish
Social Service Availability & Proximity And The Over-Representation Of Minority Children in Child Welfare
Client: State of Texas, Department of Family Protective Services
The capstone group assessed whether child welfare services were available and proximal in predominantly low income, black areas with high foster care rates in three southern cities. GIS mapping of services contained in a State 211 community services database revealed that there were no treatment services and/or no public transportation and/or lengthy public transportation times in nearly 25% of the identified areas in the three cities combined. The authors suggest that increasing child welfare service availability and proximity could reduce the overrepresentation of black children in foster care by making services available and proximal to black parents. The authors recommend that child welfare administrators perform annual GIS analyses of State 211 community services databases to assess child welfare service availability. The authors offer a number of recommendations for increasing child welfare service availability and proximity in high foster care areas.
- Final Report
The ABCD's of Texas Education: Assessing the Benefits and Costs of Reducing the Dropout Rate
Client: United Ways of Texas
This Capstone team examined the economic consequences of the high number of high school dropouts in Texas. Their report discusses alternative strategies for measuring the dropout rate, and provides estimates of the dropout rate for different geographic regions and student populations. The team also estimated of the economic benefits and costs associated with reducing the high dropout rate in Texas. Finally, the team reviewed available research regarding dropout prevention programs in order to identify best practices that could be implemented in Texas. One goal of the study was to inform and encourage a broader discussion by the Texas Legislature of the state's high school dropout rate and the societal and economic impact of failing to address the problem.
Generation Y in the Workplace
Client: Congressional Research Service
The recruitment and retention of Generation Y, individuals born between 1977 and 2002, concern the federal government and the Congressional Research Service particularly, as the retirement rate among Baby Boomers increases. A clear understanding of this generation's perceptions and expectations about work and career-related issues will assist the federal government in formulating its recruitment and retention strategies. Thus, this study identified and examined career choice factors and public service perceptions among members of Generation Y.
National Preparedness Goal, Execution, and Performance
Client: The Homeland Security and Justice Team/Government Accountability Office (GAO)
A presidential directive ordered the secretary of homeland security to develop a domestic all-hazards preparedness goal. In 2007, the Department of Homeland Security finalized the national goal and related preparedness tools such as national planning scenarios and identification of specific capabilities that communities, the private sector, and all levels of government should collectively possess to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from all major hazards. This capstone project reported to the GAO their observations about what national preparedness means in terms of assigning authority and responsibility for preparedness across the nation's highly decentralized system of public, not-for-profit, and private sector entities. They also reviewed factors management should consider to achieve preparedness within acceptable risk tolerances, to allocate resources for preparedness, and to assess performance in developing needed preparedness capabilities.
The Regional Impact of Climate Change on Public Infrastructure and Decision Making
Client: Houston-Galveston Area Council (HGAC)
In the wake of Hurricanes Rita and Ike, policy and decision makers in the Houston area are concerned with the growing threat of climate change impacts and how to adapt to these changes. This capstone studied the regional impact of climate change on public infrastructure in 13 counties in the Houston-Galveston area, focusing on resiliency planning as one alternative solution to the problem. They also looked at how local governments respond to recommendations from a non-binding metropolitan planning organization (MPO). The goal was to offer conclusions that reveal the needs and solutions for local and regional governments regarding funding, capacity building, and regulatory authority necessary for adaptive responses to the hazards of global climate and environmental problems at the regional level.
A Study of Municipal Funding of Nonprofit Agencies for the City of College Station, Texas
Client: City of College Station
The City of College Station funds nonprofit agencies through a program called Outside Agency Funding because the nonprofits provide services not offered by the city. In working to streamline the application, review, and monitoring of this funding, it became clear that there is no standard method outlined and packaged for municipal governments to use as a guide or best practice in funding nonprofit agencies. This capstone project developed a guide for municipal governments that fund nonprofit agencies.
Assessment of Local Ordinances to Reduce
Client: Congressional Research Service
From 1990 to 2005, estimates of the unauthorized alien population in the United States have risen from 3.5 million to 11.5 million people, a 325 percent increase. It has been the federal government's responsibility to prevent unauthorized immigration. However, a small number of localities have taken action over the past few years to prevent unauthorized immigration within their jurisdictions by passing a series of ordinances and resolutions. Some of the localities passed ordinances and resolutions targeting the businesses and landlords who hire and rent to unauthorized aliens, while others passed legislation targeting day labor centers, loitering, and government services. Consistent with findings made in other studies, we found that only approximately 100 localities have or are considering legislation that would impact their unauthorized alien communities.
These documents are adapted from work performed under contract for the Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress.
"Bilingual Education in Texas: Exploring Best Practices"
Client: Florence Shapiro, Chair, Senate Committee on Education
This capstone team conducted an analysis of bilingual and English as a second language (ESL) practices in the state of Texas. Their analysis has three distinct parts. In the first part, the team developed four indicators of school success with respect to students who have limited English proficiency (LEP). In the second part, they developed a survey of teacher, classroom and program characteristics that they distributed to all elementary and middle schools with at least 30 LEP students. The final part of their analysis examined the relationship between their four measures of school success and the survey responses regarding instructional practices and program characteristics. The team found that there were no school-level differences in performance between teachers in bilingual education programs and teachers in ESL programs. They also found that consistent instruction in one language (either English or Spanish) was more effective for content learning than a mix of instructional languages, and that instructional methods identified as particularly effective by the existing bilingual/ESL literature are widely practiced in Texas.
Community Leadership: Best Practices for Brazos Valley
Client: Brazos Community Foundation
This report was prepared as part of a graduate student capstone project at the George Bush School of Government and Public Service for our client, the Brazos Community Foundation (BCF). We believe the report has implications for the BCF and the broader nonprofit community in the Brazos Valley.
The project team identified ten potential community leadership roles based on best practices in the field and interests of the BCF. Students conducted interviews with 25 local nonprofit leaders, Texas A&M University representatives, as well as other community foundations to inform our recommendations.
After careful evaluation of data the group identified five community leadership roles with the most potential for implementation by the Brazos Community Foundation and the Brazos Valley at large. These roles received wide support, were feasible - based on available resources, and aligned with the mission and purpose of BCF. Students developed a series of action steps to provide guidance for the implementation of these roles. Through the interviews students discovered many opportunities for partnerships in implementing roles.
Current Trends and Future Challenges in the Freight Railroad Industry: Balancing Private Industry Interests and the Public Welfare
Client: Citizens for Rail Safety
Deregulation has put the freight railroad industry on a more secure financial footing. In general, the transformation of the rail industry since the Staggers Rail Act of 1980 has been viewed by stakeholders at many levels as verwhelmingly positive. Perhaps most important to note is that deregulation has allowed the rail industry to fully realize the benefits of operating as a private business — cutting costs, boosting productivity, eliminating unprofitable lines, and gaining a higher degree of business autonomy. One consequence of this reduction in physical capacity is that often only one railroad company's lines run on a particular route, resulting in monopolistic pricing practices.
The Low-Income Housing Program in the Louisiana and Mississippi Gulf Opportunity Zones
Client: Congressional Research Services
A series of tabulations of data contained in a HUD database for Louisiana and Mississippi revealed that prior to Hurricane Katrina, 500 low income tax credit housing (LIHTC) developments (consisting of 24,107 units) were built in Louisiana and 302 LIHTC developments (consisting of 13,970 units) were built in Mississippi between the inception of the LIHTC Program in 1986 and 2004 (when hurricane Katrina hit). Additionally, GIS maps of the same data revealed that, although these developments were scattered throughout both states, they were heavily concentrated in a few major urban areas. Further, a series of regression analyses, revealed a multicollinearity of several factors including ethnicity, education and income. In other words, the regression analyses did not reveal poverty as the main determinant for the location of housing. Moreover, though the HUD data base provided researchers with some idea of the amount of low income housing built in both states since the inception of the LIHTC Program', varying estimates of the amount of housing damaged and destroyed as well as differing reports of amounts housing units "allocated" for rebuilding make it difficult for both state and federal officials to determine the amount of additional federal housing assistance that should be provided.
"An Analysis of Nonprofit Capacity-Building 'Industry'
Client: The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (MCN), led by Jon Pratt*.
*Jon Pratt is regularly listed as one of the "50 Most Influential People in the Nonprofit Sector" by the Chronicle of Philanthropy. MCN is one of the earliest statewide nonprofit associations, with a professional research staff and an international reputation, operating in a highly robust state nonprofit economy and mature nonprofit sector. A second client is the Forbes Funds located in Pittsburgh, PA, an influential foundation in the world of philanthropy and capacity building.
This capstone group conducted an analysis of the nonprofit capacity-building "industry" in Minnesota. (The nonprofit capacity-building "industry" comprises the consultants, private and nonprofit firms, management support organizations, and academic centers that provide technical assistance and leadership training to nonprofits.) It was a replication of studies by Dr. Angela Bies in Pittsburgh during 2004-2005 and of a Central Texas capstone during 2005-2006. This capstone project contributed to a growing interest in measuring the effectiveness of nonprofit capacity-building efforts and the degree to which those efforts influence nonprofit organizational effectiveness. The general purpose of the project was to provide information about effective strategies and interventions to strengthen nonprofit management and organizational capacity, the types of challenges nonprofit organizations and providers face in building capacity, and the degree to which there were unmet needs in the region.
A multi-method approach was utilized including a survey administered to nonprofits by both an online and paper questionnaire; interviews with a representative sample of capacity building providers, policy makers, and funders; and focus groups with nonprofit executives. Results were also compared to the results obtained in the Pittsburgh and Central Texas studies.
This project addressed substantial gaps in both the practitioner-oriented and academic literature because it provided a comprehensive, empirically derived understanding of the link between capacity-building efforts and organizational change.
"Identifying Effective School Principals"
Client: The State of Texas
Policymakers and superintendents have been holding teachers accountable for student performance in Texas public schools. As the interest in results and school accountability has grown, attention has shifted to the role administrators play in creating a successful educational environment. The task for this capstone was to create a set of indicators for what an effective principal might look like. The project focused on three areas: Student Performance, Teacher Retention, and Financial Management, with the understanding that an effective principal would have students who perform well on TAAS/TAKS exams, have acceptable levels of teacher turnover, and achieve these results in a financially efficient manner. Using data from the Texas Education Agency, the project developed indicators for each of these three categories so that it would have a concrete way to discuss a principal's success. After defining what it meant to say a principal is "effective," students also checked to see if a principal's influence was statistically significant controlling for other, non-principal factors such as location, demographics, and school size. Finally, the project looked at various groupings of principals in Texas in order to report on the current patterns of principal effectiveness in the state.
"Voting Systems and Election Reform: What Do Election Officials Think?"
Client: The Congressional Research Service
After the completion of the highly successful 2004-2005 capstone project, "Voting Systems and Election Reform: What Do Election Officials Think?", the Congressional Research Service agreed with the principal investigators from the school that another study would be useful after the 2006 election. The second study focused on three topics:
- a follow-up survey on selected questions from the previous study to identify trends relating to issues of interest, such as attitudes toward electronic voting and demographic characteristics of election officials;
- an examination of selected new questions, in particular the experiences and perceptions of officials about compliance with the requirements of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) that went into effect in January 2006; and
- an in-depth exploration of selected topics through structured interviews with a sample of election officials. One example is the role vendors play in decisions about the purchase of voting systems — an issue about which the earlier survey provided somewhat contradictory results.
The follow-up study was useful to the relevant congressional committees as they considered possible revisions to the Help America Vote Act in light of experiences in the 2004 and 2006 elections.
"The Board's Role for Credit Union Mergers"
Client: Filene Institute for Credit Union Research
This project explored the role of the board of directors in decision-making during mergers and acquisitions. Mergers are a viable and wide-spread growth strategy for many credit unions. The study considered how the board engaged or disengaged in the process of working through issues related to mergers and acquisitions. Merger opportunities are strategic decision opportunities for organizations, and boards are critical to ensuring good decision-making.
The first step was to identify credit unions that had debated merger proposals. It was desirable to identify both credit unions that had completed the process as well as those that had withdrawn from the proposal. Based upon a sample of respondents who met the desired criteria, students conducted interviews with the senior executive and at least one board member.
The project interviewed 15-20 organizations (or about 30-40 executives and board members). Most of the interviews focused on decision-making processes, how opportunities and alternatives were or were not explored, and how member interests were considered. This allowed individuals to effectively describe the decision-making context and how board members were engaged. Decision quality was also considered, although it is very difficult to determine the benefits of a merger that did not take place. Consequently, we asked for perceptions of the decision quality, but quantifiable determination of benefits is probably not available in this research design. A filene research monograph was produced as a result of this project.
"Federal Funding in Response to Hurricane Katrina: Utilization by New Orleans Residents"
Client: Congressional Research Services
Congressional Research Service (CRS) requested the assistance of the graduate students at Texas A&M University to evaluate the awareness and utilization of federal programs and policies passed by Congress that are aimed at facilitating the post-Katrina recovery of New Orleans. Federal programs enacted and/or expanded to benefit residents in the New Orleans area post-Katrina include, but are not limited to, tax incentives for businesses to rebuild and hire workers, such as the Small Business Administration Disaster Loan Program; the Stafford Act programs, including FEMA grants and assistance; the Gulf Opportunity Act of 2005 (GoZone); the Katrina Emergency Tax Relief Act of 2005 (KETRA); and the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding, which includes the Road Home program. The study will allow Congress to examine the effectiveness of the funds allocated. In addition, students provided Congress with recommendations based on the findings of their research.
The research conducted for this study evaluated the extent to which New Orleans residents were aware of and participated in federal programs created by recent congressional legislation designed to benefit residents in the New Orleans area.
Students prepared a literature review and case study analysis of events similar to Katrina over the past century. Students also conducted in-depth interviews with stakeholders and leaders in the Louisiana recovery efforts, objectively examining the benefits and hindrances of the federal programs. In addition, students surveyed homeowners and business owners about the federal programs, seeking their experiences and insight into how those programs were used and managed and whether citizens were aware of the programs and benefits. Students submitted a final report to CRS in late April 2007, which included the literature review, findings, and recommendations.
A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Universally-Accessible Pre-Kindergarten Education in Texas
This study provided an analysis of the relative costs and benefits of a high-quality, universally-accessible pre-kindergarten program in Texas. The analysis identified the costs and benefits unique to Texas' population, workforce, economy and existing educational system. It concluded that even when making very conservative assumptions, the benefits of universally-accessible, high-quality pre-kindergarten for four-year-olds in Texas greatly outweigh the costs.
- A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Universally-Accessible Pre-Kindergarten Education in Texas
- Executive Summary
- Legislative 1-pager
- Legislative 3-pager
Voting Systems and Election Reform: What Do Election Officials Think?
Client: Congressional Research Service
In the aftermath of voting problems in the 2000 presidential election, Congress passed legislation seeking to reform how elections were run and what voting technologies were used. Some of the new voting systems selected, particularly electronic voting systems, drew criticism for perceived security and transparency problems. Absent from this debate was any systematic representation of the views of the administrators who actually run these elections. This report presented the results of a survey of over 1400 local election officials from across the country. The survey solicited views on specific election systems and technologies; the factors local election officials consider in determining the appropriate election systems for their specific jurisdictions; the influence of vendors and federal, state, and local officials on the decision making process; the impact of federal reform on state and local jurisdictions; and other topics.
Water for Texas: Applicant Capacity Assessment Tool for the Economically Distressed Areas Program
Client: Texas Water Development Board
This report contains recommendations, analysis, and an assessment tool for the Economically Distressed Areas program administered by the Texas Water Development Board. The purpose of the assessment tool, known as the Applicant Capacity Assessment Tool (ACAT), was to reduce the number of water infrastructure projects running over-budget and over-schedule.
Rural Viability Index: A Tool for Assessing
This report describes, analyzes, and contains a tool designed to provide local leaders and citizens with a way to assess the status of a variety of elements within their community. The tool, named the Rural Viability Index, offers communities the opportunity to identify possible options for current and future community planning.
Big Thicket National Preserve: Trails to the Future
Client: National Park Service
This report traces the history of the Big Thicket region and the political process that occurred to establish the Big Thicket National Preserve, identifies the current threats facing the Big Thicket region, and describes a continuum of possible policy solutions that might be applied to the threats facing the Big Thicket.
CAFTA: Sanitary and Phytosanitary Evaluation
This report informed the USDA about the status of Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) regulatory systems in five Central American countries that are participating in negotiations for a Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) with the United States. To complete the report, the Capstone team sent surveys to the appropriate in-country experts in each of the five CAFTA countries and utilized the Phytosanitary Capacity Evaluation model to measure the level of compliance with international standards.
A Snapshot of the Texas Aerospace Industry and a Comparison of Competitor States
Client: Texas Aerospace Commission
This report analyzed the factors that affect the ability of Texas to attract and retain aerospace-related businesses by considering the following factors: statewide economic development policy, human capital, aviation, space, and military. In addition, the report provided a comparative analysis of ten states with which Texas will be competing for future aerospace-related economic development opportunities.
Emergency Preparedness: An Analysis of Policy Leader and Community Perspectives
Client: Office of Congressman Bob Riley
This report, which was produced for then-Congressman Bob Riley's office, provided findings regarding the state of emergency preparedness in Calhoun County, Alabama, related to chemical weapons (CW) storage and incineration at the Anniston Army Depot. The analysis addressed the following research question. Given that CW incineration is set to start at the Anniston Army Depot in September 2002, what information would provide the basis for practical dialogue about emergency preparedness in Calhoun County and provide a possible foundation for policy leaders to reach consensus over this critical issue in order to ensure citizen acceptance, understanding, and compliance?