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:
Combined Arms Consulting
Supervising instructor: Dr. William Brown
This project aims to provide Combined Arms with a report that substantiates their model, gives an honest appraisal of the support service they offer member organizations, and gives an analysis of the markets Combined Arms plans to expand to, Dallas, Tarrant, and Bexar Counties.
City of Bryan | Strategic Task and Technological Analysis
Supervising instructor: Dr. Justin Bullock
The Bush School of Government and Public Service partnered with the City of Bryan for the 2019-2020 academic year to perform an analysis of five city departments and to identify opportunities to improve departmental effectiveness, efficiency, and equity through technology. This analysis was conducted by a group of ten Bush School students, advised by Dr. Justin Bullock, as part of their Graduate Capstone Project. The research team is divided into five sub-teams that worked directly with the following departments: Development and Planning Services, Fire Department, Information Technology, Library Services, and Parks and Recreation.
Foreign Talent Recruitment Programs in U.S. Higher Education
Supervising instructor: Dr. Kevin Gamache
American colleges and universities are infected with the cancer of malign influence of foreign recruitment programs; like the deadliest of diseases, most unsuspecting educational establishments do not even know they are ill. Known as “foreign talent recruitment programs,” these scholastic viruses present themselves innocuously and hide in plain sight. Without confronting this sickness, wrought by foreign money and influence, U.S. institutions of higher learning are unwittingly becoming weapons in the war between free democratic societies and rogue nations intent on harming our country and its institutions.
Sustainable Funding for Conservation in Texas
Supervising instructor: Dr. Cole Blease Graham
The consulting capstone team sought to find a self-sustaining, fair, and viable revenue source that can be established and implemented to generate $20 million for wildlife and habitat conservation in Texas. The team studied several possible funding mechanisms and the potential support they would receive by comparing survey responses of local governments with those of conservation organizations. We surveyed Councils of Governments (COGs) to assess attitudes of local government because the councils are composed of elected officials from regional governments in Texas. We surveyed members of America’s Fish and Wildlife Alliance to assess attitudes of conservation organizations because the Texas Alliance has endorsed HR 3742 Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, which is under consideration in the 116th Congress (2019-2020). The conservation group served as a control with a positive bias for funding conservation whereas the COGs represented the voting public.
Planning for Resilience and Reducing Risk: Lessons for Mexico City
Supervising instructor: Dr. Mary Hilderbrand
Disaster risk management (DRM) has never been as essential to Mexico City as today. Three years ago, the city was hit with its largest earthquake in over 30 years. It killed 219 people, caused billions of dollars in infrastructure damages, and left a vibrant city in disarray. While Mexico City and its surrounding communities continue to recover, the aftermath of the earthquake confronts its residents, businesses, and local leaders daily.
Commemorations in Congress
Supervising instructor: Dr. Deborah Kerr
This project is a product of the Bush School of Government and Public Service Consulting Capstone Program. The Capstone team created a database of commemorative legislation and calculated the number of commemoratives introduced and approved in the 93rd-115th congresses. The project has been performed for the research wing of the Library of Congress, the Congressional Research Service. The project has lasted one full academic year and involves five second-year master’s degree students, who collected the data from https://www.congress.gov/, created a database and developed descriptive statistics and nonpartisan analysis.
From Flashlight to Searchlight | A Sustainable Information Program for Sex Trafficking Victims in Texas
Supervising instructor: Dr. David McIntyre
This project is a product of the Bush School of Government and Public Service Capstone Program. It expands upon a previous project that mapped the legal pathways for domestic minor sex trafficking victims and the resources available to them in the Brazos Valley. It expands victim information and resource models by applying them to broader geographic areas and additional categories of victims for the Human Trafficking and Transnational/Organized Crime Section of the Texas Office of the Attorney General. This project lasted one academic year and involved ten second-year Master students. They have reviewed the literature on trafficking, validated and revised the previous project, created a visual model for the legal pathways of international trafficking victims, mapped the victim resources available in two additional Texas counties, and developed a more comprehensive, bilingual resource model and website that can be updated by community leaders into specific resource guides for any Texas region.
Preparing for Threats in Harris County: Utilizing a Community Approach
Supervising instructor: Dr. Sonny Smith
The recent federal response to the COVID-19 virus outlines the important role of planning in disaster preparedness. One vital variable within the planning phase, that is sometimes overlooked, is messaging to the general public. More succinctly, how can government entities effectively communicate important information to diverse populations? Addressing this question becomes more problematic as the population becomes larger and more diverse and when you also add population sprawl into the equation.
Supervising instructor: Dr. Kenneth Taylor
The nonprofit landscape is evolving as Generation Z, a group of individuals in their late teens and early twenties, earns more disposable income and exercises greater influence on purchasing decisions in households (National Retail Federation, 2019). Bush School capstone consultants partnered with Compassion International to help them understand who Gen Z is, how they can engage this young generation
through social media, and what effects these understandings have on the Life Cycle Journey Map of Gen Z.
Emergency Items of the Governor: An Analysis of the 86th Legislature
Supervising instructor: Dr. Ann Bowman
The 2019 Scholars analyzed emergency items presented by Governor Greg Abbott at the start of the 86th legislative session. These emergency items include school finance reform and pay raises for teachers, property tax reform, mental health reform, school safety, and disaster relief. These emergency items are considered the most important to the legislature and to the state and are required to be addressed in the legislative session. Some of these emergency items are more controversial than others—disaster relief legislation followed a politically-smooth process while school finance and property tax reform remained in the spotlight throughout the session.
Partners or Purses? A New Approach to Cross-sector Collaboration for the World Organisation for Animal Health
Supervising instructor: Dr. William Brown
The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) is dedicated to the improvement of animal health and welfare throughout the world. The OIE was exploring the creation of a structure to capture funds from the private sector. In determining how to appropriately secure such contributions, the OIE is committed to ethical and good governance principles (such as avoiding conflicts of interest). The purpose of the OIE http://bush.tamu.edu/?page_id=176Group was to determine what would be the most appropriate structure or mechanism for the OIE to capture contributions from the private sector. The report included an introduction and definition of the problem, a review of relevant literature, the context and an analysis of OIE’s World Fund, five case summaries of relevant structures and mechanisms, summary of themes from expert interviews; and overall conclusions and recommendations for the OIE.
OnWard with OnRamp: Mapping the Road Ahead
Supervising instructor: Dr. Catherine Cole
Researchers have concluded that automobile ownership has a greater impact on a person’s chances of being employed than having a high school diploma. OnRamp is a startup nonprofit whose mission is to provide reliable transportation to people in-need to get them on the road to self-sufficiency and to share with them the grace of God. We found that transportation nonprofits tend to be responsive or reactive to community need, lack clearly defined leadership roles and succession plans, and have a large variety of indicators used to define success that tends to be output based. These organizations also have strict eligibility criteria and almost universally accept clients through a sponsor referral process.
Comprehensive U.S. Cyber Framework: Key Aspects of Critical Infrastructure, Private Sector and Personally Identifiable Information
Supervising instructor: Dr. Danny W. Davis
This project is a product of the Class of 2019 Bush School of Government and Public Service,Texas A&M University http://bush.tamu.edu/?page_id=176Program. The project lasted one academic year and involved eight second-year master students. It intends to synthesize and provide clarity in the realm of issues pertaining to U.S. Internet Protocol Space by demonstrating natural partnerships and recommendations for existing cyber incident response. The project was produced at the request of PointStream Inc., a private cybersecurity contractor. This capstone team analyzed existing frameworks for cyber incident response for PointStream, Inc. in order to propose a comprehensive and efficient plan for U.S. cybersecurity, critical infrastructure, and private sector stakeholders.
Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HCOHSEM) Information Management Analysis
Supervising instructor: Dr. Danny W. Davis
This Project generated 13 recommendations for HCOHSEM by employing an Action Research
model using Purposeful Design. It also observed the occurrence and first stages of response by
HCOHSEM to Hurricane Harvey. First-hand information and lessons learned from the response
to Hurricane Harvey are incorporated into this project and its recommendations. Incorporating
this information also helps pave the way for additional research opportunities, especially the
unprecedented community response to the disaster. The recommendations provide a range of options for HCOHSEM to implement in order to improve their information management and the emergency notification process during emergency management operations.
Addressing IP Theft While Preserving Research
Supervising instructor: Dr. Kevin Gamache
This report discusses and examines the factors surrounding this dilemma—government perspective, academic perspective, shortage of graduate research students, foreign entities identified as intellectual property risks, cyber security, funding, legislation, and policy. To create more appropriate and effective solutions, guidance is provided that reframes the issue as a security problem rather than a foreign-entity problem. The report makes 12 recommendations based on a best-practices survey of research teams from 39 premier research institutions to address the issue while preserving the concepts of fundamental research and academic freedom.
Science to Policy: Funding Wildlife Conservation in Texas
Supervising instructor: Dr. Cole Blease Graham, Jr.
This project studied options for expanding wildlife funding in the state of Texas. Initial analysis shows a consensus among stakeholders for voluntary and familiar funding methods such as stamps, license plate fees, outdoor recreation fees, and a tax on plastic. These findings imply that some voluntary methods of funding (e.g., license plate fees) could be modified to develop additional, long-term revenue generation to support wildlife conservation policies.
Leveraging the Garment Worker Diaries: A China Strategy for MFO
Supervising instructor: Dr. Mary Hilderbrand
Due to the emergence of China’s middle class and the growing global influence of Chinese investment, Microfinance Opportunities (MFO) views Chinese actors as significant stakeholders in the apparel industry in South and Southeast Asia. In its aim of addressing garment worker conditions in South and Southeast Asia, MFO desires a strategy to reach Chinese stakeholders with the Garment Worker Diaries (GWDs). By leveraging the GWDs and other data, MFO seeks to influence Chinese and other relevant stakeholders to improve the conditions of garment workers. MFO has asked the research team to provide a strategy document, involving an analysis of the best methods to communicate and frame GWDs in a contextually legitimate manner to Chinese stakeholders in the apparel industry. This strategy tests the public value proposition to assess if MFO may have an impact on the economic well-being of garment workers in South and Southeast Asia by influencing Chinese stakeholders through the GWDs information. The MFO http://bush.tamu.edu/?page_id=176project provides MFO with a strategic plan to leverage its diaries with Chinese actors, based on an analysis of the offshore Chinese apparel industry, relevant Chinese stakeholders, and MFO’s organizational capacity. The main research question is as follows: Can Microfinance Opportunities expand the impact of the Garment Worker Diaries by influencing Chinese stakeholders to improve conditions of garment workers? If so, how?
Congress, Constituents and Social Media: Understanding Member Communications in the Age of Instantaneous Communication
Supervising instructor: Dr. Deborah Kerr
Building the first database on Congressional use of traditional and social media, this project examined media use by Members in the 115th Congress. The team collected data on the use of both traditional media (franking disbursements, communication staff) and new media (social media, e-newsletters). Analysis indicates that (1) Member ideology has an effect on use of franking and on size of communication staff and (2) the more members spoke on the floor, the more Facebook posts they made.
Mapping the Darkness: Finding Support for Victims of Sex Trafficking in Texas
Supervising instructor:Dr. David H. McIntyre
Prosecutors in the Human Trafficking and Transnational/Organized Crime Section, Criminal Prosecutions Division, Texas Office of the Attorney General, face two problems in dealing with victims (and especially child victims):
- explaining the sometimes years long process they face as the judicial system grinds forward;
- finding resources to help those victims transition to a “normal” life.
After extensive research and revision of models, this capstone group produced an “education aid” and website that addresses these two needs. Brazos County was used as a model, and more than 170 sources of assistance were identified and categorized. The customer was so satisfied that the project will be extended for another year in order to develop models and data bases for different sized communities ranging from rural counties to major cities.
Launching into the Future: How the Center for Nonprofits and Philanthropy Can Build a Sustainable Operation
Supervising instructor: Dr. Kenneth Taylor
Based on existing academically-housed and community-based nonprofit centers and institute models, the study revealed the importance of academically-housed nonprofit centers, especially in early form, to develop a core identity aligned with values, collaborate with peer academic nonprofit centers, and prioritize activities which lead to international third sector involvement.
Habitat for Humanity: Does Habitat Homeownership Impact Well-Being?
Supervising instructor: Dr. Matthew Upton
This project studied the effect Habitat homeownership has on the personal economics of the beneficiaries and how the relationship affects their children’s education and their families’ health. The team collected data from Habitat Applications and surveys filled out by the Habitat homeowners. Preliminary observations show a positive association between Habitat homeownership and both health and education outcomes.
Building Resilience: Planning and Recovery Strategies for Small Towns after Hurricane Harvey Flooding – The City of Wharton, Texas
Supervising instructor: Dr. Arnold Vedlitz
As part of The Bush School of Government and Public Service capstone project, this report was conducted in an effort to provide recovery assistance to Texas communities in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Specifically, this report focuses on the City of Wharton, Texas, a small community 60 miles southwest of Houston that experienced extensive damage and destruction from Hurricane Harvey. The following report is the product of several months of work conducted by a team of Master of Public Service and Administration graduate students using available literature, case studies, secondary data analysis, and stakeholder interviews to provide a detailed analysis of the storm and its aftermath experienced in Wharton, including recommendations to community leaders for current and future recovery actions, areas to increase resilience, and possible priorities for consideration to improve response and recovery for future natural disasters.
Meeting The Healthcare Needs of United States Veterans: Texas 8th Congressional District
Supervising instructor: Dr. S. Catherine Cole
Veterans of all ages utilize healthcare through the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), which is the medical branch of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VHA is “America’s largest integrated healthcare system” serving approximately 9-million veterans annually (VHA 2018). Thousands of medical centers, hospitals, clinics, and community based outpatient clinics offer healthcare services within the VA network. These facilities are found throughout the country with 12 VA hospitals/healthcare system facilities located in Texas alone (USDVA 2018). Our study area is specific to the Conroe Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC). Even though the VHA currently serves 9-million veterans, approximately 20-million veterans live in the United States, meaning many veterans are either not utilizing VHA services, or they are getting their health needs from other facilities (VetPop 2016). The VA network offers countless services for veterans, but such an expansive medical framework comes with its limitations. The 2017 nonprofit and public administration capstone team extensively researched financial impacts of veterans healthcare, impacts of the Veterans Choice Act (VCA), and veteran homelessness and suicide (Castro, Hare, and Willis 2017). The findings from last year’s team provided a window for more work to be done, which led our group to research much of the same subject matter through a different lens. We also continued working with Congressman Kevin Brady and his Conroe office staff. Our main task was to review gaps previously identified by the former team and to find even more specific information about veterans’ healthcare in the 8th congressional district (8th district).
Lobbying After Federal Service: The Revolving Door, Shadow Lobbying, and Cooling Off Periods for Former Government Officials
Supervising instructor: Deborah L. Kerr
This project is a product of the Bush School of Government and Public Service Consulting http://bush.tamu.edu/?page_id=176Program. It intends to create a database of post-government employment of senior executive branch officials to increase the knowledge about former executive branch officials’ post-government career paths. The project is performed for the research wing of the Congressional Research Service, the Library of Congress. The project lasted one academic year and involved nine second-year Master students, who have collected data, created a comprehensive database, and provided nonpartisan analysis presented in this final report.
Habitat for Humanity: An Exploratory Study on Homeownership Quality of Life
Supervising instructor: Dr. Domonic Bearfield’s
Habitat for Humanity International (HHI) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded to help build simple and decent homes seeking to put God’s love into action in communities ( B/CS Habitat for Humanity , 2018). The nonprofit organization has served the Bryan/College Station (B/CS) community since 1989 and has recently finished the construction of its two hundred eighty-second home. The purpose of this study is to collect data regarding the impact of the organization on Habitat homeowners and the community. The results will help to provide key information needed to evaluate program impact, inform and support organizational and developmental goals, and build brand awareness . To achieve this, the following research question is utilized to guide our study: What is the impact of Habitat homeownership on the quality of life of homeowners?
Economic Contributions of the Louisiana Nonprofit Sector: Size and Scope
Supervising instructor: Dr. Laurie Paarlberg
This economic contribution study describes the nonprofit sector in the state of Louisiana. Nonprofit organizations studied in this report included 501(c)(3) organizations and 501(c) other organizations, defined under Title 26 of the United States Code. Trends in the size and scope of the sector, as well as employment, volunteerism, grant-making, and the financial health of nonprofits in Louisiana are detailed in order to tell the story of Louisiana nonprofits as well as uncover areas of concern for the sector moving forward.
An Evaluation Of The Causes, Consequences, And Potential Solutions To Increased Red River Flooding In The Caddo Parish Regions Of Northwest Louisiana
Supervising instructor: Dr. Arnold Vedlitz
Urban flooding is a challenge for many parts of the world, and Caddo Parish, Louisiana, is no exception. Caddo Parish, located in Northwestern Louisiana on the banks of the Red River, has been the subject of intense flooding for decades, issuing widespread devastation to many areas of the parish. As waters from rain events and upstream reservoirs deluged the Red River, countless individuals and communities were affected. In addition to damage and destruction of homes and personal belongings, sectors of the economy were also impacted, notably agriculture and industry. Rising waters jeopardized public infrastructure, affecting commerce throughout the parish, particularly waterway systems. This report, prepared by graduate students of the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, per request of the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office, outlines policy solutions to protect the individuals and communities of Caddo Parish from future flooding.
Exploring Income Inequality and Economic Mobility in the City of Bryan
Supervising instructor: Dr. Kenneth Anderson Taylor
Although not specific to the City of Bryan, income inequality is a local reality and results in perpetuated intergenerational economic stagnation. This capstone project conducts research relating to income inequality both in general and as it relates to the City of Bryan, thus leading to recommendations for actionable responses for community stakeholders. This report is prepared for Community Development Department Manager Alsie Bond and other key stakeholders to demonstrate how income inequality affects the residents of and the City of Bryan, and what can be done to address it. This capstone team seeks to discover and present practical responses for the city, nonprofit organizations, and private businesses in order to foster greater economic mobility for low to middle income residents.
Working Even Harder for Our Veterans: Recommendations to Continue Improving Healthcare Access, Resource Allocation, and Accountability
Supervising instructor: Dr. S. Catherine Cole
Congressman Kevin Brady is committed to fighting for veterans within his district, across the state of Texas, and throughout the United States. So much so that he led the effort to establish a veteran’s clinic in Conroe, opening the current facility in late 2015. Always looking for better ways to serve his veteran constituency, Congressman Brady and his staff asked the Bush School Team to examine issues related to the effectiveness of VA services in the 8th Congressional District.
Surface Water Regulations in Texas: Problems and Solutions
Supervising instructor: Jim Griffin
According to the 2017 Texas State Water Plan, Texas will experience an 8.9 million acre foot water shortage by 2070. The question is what role surface and groundwater will play in alleviating this shortfall. The 2016 project to Comptroller Hegar assessed the potential for ground water to meet these predicted water needs (the Brady et al. report). This report is a follow on report focused on surface water.
In several ways, surface water poses a more complex task because one cannot point to a single regulatory institution with simple fixes. Indeed, in many respects, surface water institutions in Texas are relatively sophisticated. From the extensive WAM modeling used by the Texas Commission on Environment Quality (TCEQ) to the comprehensive 50-year water plans produced by the Texas Water Development Board (TWBD), Texas is significantly ahead of other states in their water planning and management. However, our analysis has identified three major problem areas, the solutions to which are the focus of this report.
Texas vs. the Federal Government: An Examination of the Influence of Political Ideologies on State‐Filed Lawsuits
Supervising instructor: Ann O’M. Bowman
This study explores the role of ideology in the filing of lawsuits by the state of Texas against the federal government. Four important policy areas are examined: criminal justice, environmental protection, immigration, and social issues. The time period of the study encompasses an ideological spectrum in Texas government and among the American presidents holding office at the same time as the governors. To gain a comparative focus, the Texas lawsuit data is contrasted with federal lawsuits filed by Florida and California. The analysis shows no clear connection between ideology and the number of lawsuits filed by the three states.
The Search for Smart Schools: Identifying Texas School Districts’ Best Practices
Supervising instructor: Dr. Catherine Cole
This report outlines findings from the TXSmartSchools.org (TSS) Capstone Team’s mixed methodology study identifying best practices in high performing and cost-efficient school districts. TSS was particularly interested in finding best practices transferable from high performing school districts to low performing districts. The Capstone Team accomplished this using the TSS concept of “fiscal peers.” After completing a narrative literature review on the best practices in public education, the capstone Team examined the effect of various school district expenditures on academic performance and cost efficiency through quantitative methods. The Capstone Team’s findings suggest the amount of money invested in practices are not indicative of the quality of the programs. Additional findings demonstrate the administrative cost ratio caps do not improve cost efficiency, and investments in bilingual education are associated with improved academic performance. To better describe the practices employed in school districts, semistructured interviews were conducted with school district officials. The findings from interviews with chief business officers and superintendents capture the importance of culture in district practices and operations. Based on the quantitative and qualitative findings, the Capstone Team makes recommendations that can be implemented at the district and state level. Further research is needed that will allow educators and researchers to better identify the best practices that will improve Texas schools’ and districts’ student academic achievement and fiscal efficiency.
Examining the Prevalence of Financial Exploitation of Individuals Suffering from Alzheimer’s and Dementia Related Diseases in Texas
Supervising instructor: Dr. Deborah L. Kerr
The Alzheimer’s Association of Houston and Southeast Texas (Association) is committed to expanding care and services for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease through awareness, research, and legislation. The Association has asked the Bush School capstone team to examine the prevalence of elder financial exploitation in Texas, specifically among individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia-related diseases. The result of this examination will assist the Association’s policy and recommendation agenda during the 2019 Texas Legislative Session.
College Station 2030: Issues Affecting a Growing Community
Supervising instructor: Dr. Jeryl Mumpower
Municipality Index Capstone: US Edition
Supervising instructor: Dr. Domonic Bearfield
The study will expand the scope of the Bush Transparency Project to include local governments across the United States. Specifically, we will focus on cities with populations of at least 100,000 people.
Reorganizing Groundwater Regulation in Texas
Client: Glenn Hegar, Texas Comptroller
Supervising instructor: Dr. Jim Griffin
Groundwater usage in Texas appears severely dysfunctional. Neither the market for water or regulation is working properly. Currently, 80+ Groundwater Conservation Districts (GCDs) “regulate” groundwater production in their areas, with locally elected boards that act as independent Balkanized states. Selling water across district lines is very difficult, making cities like San Antonio unable to access abundant groundwater in nearby GCDs. At the same time, landowners own the rights to groundwater based on the Rule of Capture, which creates a perverse incentive to extract all you can before your neighbor does.
Assessing Policies for IT Governance and Transatlantic IT Cooperation
Client: Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), Dr. Philipp Mueller, Director, Public Sector-Europe
Supervising instructor: Dr. Mary Hilderbrand
Following Edward Snowden’s revelations of extensive NSA surveillance, including data gathering from German citizens and political leaders, there have been tensions in the US-German relationship (as well as in the larger US-European relationship) over the interrelated areas of surveillance/intelligence and data protection/privacy. The conflict hinders transatlantic business operations, including those of the IT sector; and it also has broader public policy implications, as it has created obstacles to progress on issues of common interest, including trade agreements. The two countries approach questions of data protection and privacy as well as those surrounding electronic intelligence gathering from quite different perspectives, and there is a lack of understanding on each side of the other’s perspectives.
Congressional Research Service: Dear Colleague Letters
Client: Congressional Research Service, Dr. Jacob Straus, CRS Analyst on the Congress
Supervising instructor: Dr. Deborah Kerr
For this capstone project, the Congressional Research Service and Dr. Jacob Straus plan to continue their research on “Dear colleague” letters, using data from the just completed 113th Congress.
Homeland Security, Emergency Management, and Business Continuity: Building a Framework to Secure the Future
Client: Rentsys Recovery Systems
Supervising instructor: Dr. David H. McIntyre
In the last three years, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have made tremendous strides in the intellectual, policy, and operational frameworks that guide national preparedness. The concepts of integrated risk management (IRM) and resilience have developed into policy drivers for the mission areas of mitigation, prevention, protection, response, and recovery that now define the way federal, state, and local organizations identify and prepare for disasters and restore communities after such an event. Understanding these seven intellectual constructs and the national disaster policy frameworks published to support them is critical for anyone seeking employment or advancement in the fields of Homeland Security (HLS) or EM.
Field research leading to important findings, conclusions, and policy recommendations in these areas has been the focus of Bush School HLS capstone projects over the last two years.
The Bush School/Law School Capstone on State and Local Trade Barriers
Client: North American Strategy for Competitiveness (NASCO)
Supervising instructor: Dr. Jeryl Mumpower
The client for this capstone is the North American Strategy for Competitiveness (NASCO), a nonprofit voluntary coalition of North American governments, businesses, and educational institutions. One of NASCO’s core missions is improving the competitiveness of the North American supply chain. NASCO is concerned that regulatory efforts at the state and local level are creating barriers to trade along the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) corridor. This capstone will provide NASCO with a careful description of the trade frictions that occur as a product moves across national and state boundaries and a framework for dealing with regulations that impose undue burdens on the free flow of goods and services in North America.
Clients: Salvation Army of Bryan-College Station, Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium, and State Urban Search and Rescue Alliance
Supervising instructors: Dr. Will Brown, Dr. Jenny Morrison, Dr. Wynn Rosser
The goal of the consulting capstones is to enhance students’ management and policy education by developing collaborative consulting engagements with public and nonprofit organizations. Students assist client organizations in addressing existing and emerging challenges. Client hosts are solicited from a range of public and nonprofit organizations, including state and local government agencies, school districts, and intermediary entities. Prospective clients submit applications, which are reviewed by faculty supervisors. Projects are based on client needs and entail a range of topics, such as marketing, organizational assessment, policy recommendations and analysis, fund development planning, program evaluation, human resource management, and strategic planning. The consulting capstone utilizes a structured framework to approach problem definition and project oversight. Student teams meet with client hosts to develop a project scope memo, completed in the first four weeks of the semester. The student teams work with the organizations to complete the agreed-upon work plan.
Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium – Dr. Jenny Morrison
- Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium Executive Summary
- Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium Parent Guide
- Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Final Report
Understanding Poverty in the Brazos County – Dr. Wynn Rosser
Professionalization and Effectiveness in State Legislatures
Client: Texas Legislature
Supervising Instructor: Dr. Ann O’M. Bowman
Authors: Matthew Bangcaya, Thomas DiGiuseppe, Blake Dodd, Christopher Gruning, Rebecca Parma, and Johannah Roberson
The 84th regular session of the Texas Legislature will convene in Austin on January 13, 2015, and is scheduled to run through June 1, 2015. Students in this capstone will spend the fall semester learning about state legislatures in general and the Texas Legislature in particular. During the spring semester, students will relocate to Austin to work for state legislators, legislative committees, or legislative agencies. The specific legislators and committees have not been finalized as yet, but students can expect to have opportunities to use their analytic skills. Even though students will have different work assignments during the spring semester, we will come together as a capstone class regularly. Students will produce a capstone report that builds on their fall semester study and their spring semester work experiences. The actual substance of the report will be determined by the capstone class; but it could address session milestones (significant legislation adopted/defeated/deferred); noteworthy shifts in policy (e.g., redistricting in the 82nd session, the rainy day fund in the 83rd session); or, possibly, a comparison of Texas legislative actions to those in other states as well as the identification and discussion of issues on the horizon for the 85th session.
Texas Transparency Project Capstone: The Texas School District Indicator Project
Supervising Instructor: Dr. Domonic Bearfield
This capstone represents the second iteration of what is now known as the Texas Transparency Project. The Texas Transparency Project joins other initiatives working to promote transparency of governance information. The first iteration, the Municipal Performance Index (MPI), adapted the Grading the States evaluation framework to a local government context, utilizing a particular focus on the online transparency of government performance information. The goal of TTP is to equip citizens and public officials with the information they need to assess how their governments operate. Without that information, citizens cannot determine whether they are being governed effectively, nor can they hold their governments accountable for reaching and exceeding that expectation.
Student Recruitment:Best Practices Implementation
Client: Dr. Bill West, Dr. Matthew Upton, Ms. Kathryn Meyer
Supervising Instructor: Dr. Joanna Lahey
The continued growth of the Bush School has created a need for formalization, refinement, and expansion of its recruitment methods. What are the best practices for student recruitment? What metrics can be used to evaluate methods already in place? How do we set up data collection and analysis for future evaluation? What best practices can be implemented going forward? This capstone will integrate skills from across the MPSA curriculum to effect solutions that will raise the profile of the Bush School going forward.
FEMA Proposed Best Capstone Project
Client: Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
Supervising Instructor: Dr. Dave McIntyre
This capstone investigates Preparedness and Response to Hurricane Ike in Galveston and understands how accomplishment of all mission areas–Mitigation, Prevention, Protection Response, Recovery–could have been improved.
Client: Cooperative for After-School Enrichment (CASE)
Supervising Instructor: Dr. Melissa Tackett-Gibson
The objective of this capstone is to develop and conduct a study of the impact of after-school care on children and families. The project is part of an ongoing research agenda established by ENRICH of Harris County on after-school care. It is a follow-up to a Bush School capstone return-on-investment study conducted in 2013 to 2014. The capstone fills a particular need for information related to after-school care outcomes. Past research suggests that after-school care reduces student involvement in delinquency, drug use, and truancy. Additional work indicates that it also may increase the likelihood of graduation and promote better academic outcomes.
Client: Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation, Texas Association of Community Colleges, McKenna Foundation, Knapp Foundation, Workforce Solutions, Cooperative for After-School Enrichment (CASE)
Supervising Instructors: Dr. Will Brown, Dr. Deborah Kerr, Dr. Jenny Morrison,
Dr. Wynn Rosser
The goal of the capstone is to enhance students’ management and policy education by developing collaborative consulting engagements with public and nonprofit organizations. Students assist client organizations in addressing existing and emerging challenges. Client hosts are solicited from a range of public and nonprofit organizations, including state and local government agencies, school districts, and intermediary entities. Prospective clients submit applications that are reviewed by faculty supervisors. Projects are based on client needs and entail a range of topics, such as marketing, organizational assessment, policy recommendations and analysis, fund development planning, program evaluation, human resource management, and strategic planning. The consulting capstone utilizes a structured framework to approach problem definition and project oversight. Student teams meet with client hosts to develop a project scope memo, which is completed in the first four weeks of the semester. The student team works with organizations to complete the agreed- upon work plan.
- Final Report – Healthy Discussions
- Final Report – Envisioning a Bright Future for New Braunfels Children
Dallas Challenge Final Report
The project is an analysis of Dallas Challenge’s current image through a stakeholder assessment. Following the assessment, we will provide strategies and tactics that Dallas Challenge can incorporate in order to successfully complete the rebranding process. This project is important to our client because they want to remain a competitive service provider in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. They want their image to portray their services and mission more accurately so that they can better serve at-‐risk youth. By providing rebranding strategies, Dallas Challenge stakeholders will have a more concrete perception of the client’s identity and the scope of their program services.
The Brazos Valley Council of Governments Service Integration Report 2013-2014
This report examines human service integration efforts of the Brazos Valley Council of
Governments and what regulations stand in the way of full integration. Along with the findings from the Brazos Valley Council of Governments, we developed a report of other states’ human service integration attempts. We found that “siloed” funding streams, restrictions on information systems, and other regulations present significant barriers to the Brazos Valley Council of Governments. We also found that human service agencies in California, Colorado, and New York provide a model for the Brazos Valley Council of Governments to achieve full human service integration; however, regulations from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will prevent the full integration between all programs offered at the Brazos Valley Council of Governments.
Water Use in the Eagle Ford Shale: An Economic and Policy Analysis of Water Supply and Demand
The Eagle Ford Shale is a massive geologic formation located in South Texas spanning 30 Texas counties from Brazos County in the north east to Webb County in the southwest. With the advent of hydraulic fracturing (HF) and horizontal drilling, over 200 operators have been able to tap into previously inaccessible shale reserves to produce abundant amounts of oil and gas. The oil and gas proliferation in the Eagle Ford has seen exponential growth, and production is not anticipated to decline until 2025. In addition, a typical HF well in the Eagle Ford is estimated to consume about 13 acre-feet of water for a standard 5000 foot lateral. Approximately 90% of water for HF comes from fresh groundwater aquifers. This interaction of HF and water consumption is of primary importance from a political and economic perspective. This serves as the focal point of our report.
Postsecondary Completion in Rural Texas: A Statewide Overview
Educate Texas, our client, is a partner and key player in postsecondary education in Texas. The nonprofit seeks to improve postsecondary completion statewide. Under their mission, our capstone was charged with assessing the state of postsecondary completion in Rural Texas. Using a mixed methods approach, the capstone studied institutional, attitudinal, and academic barriers that impede rural students from pursuing and obtaining a postsecondary credential. Why should policymakers and stakeholders focus specifically on the rural student population in Texas for postsecondary enrollment and completion?
Teenage Pregnancy: The Case for Prevention and Increased Quality of Life in Waco, Texas
In 2011, Texas was ranked 5th in the nation for total teen births rates amongst females, ages 15-19 (Department of Health and Human Resources 2011). Compared to the national average in the United States of 31.3 per one thousand, in 2011 46.9 per one thousand of Texas teens became pregnant (Appendix A). Teen Pregnancy is a very real issue in Texas, and the Waco community has found itself in the forefront of this fight.
Integrated Risk Management at the Local Level: The Gap between Theory and Practice
In the years following September 11, 2001, there has been significant development of Integrated Risk Management (IRM) in the field of Emergency Management. The last decade has brought substantial refinement of federal guidance, an increase in the quantity of guidance, and expansion of many local emergency management programs. While these developments indicate progress, it is not known to what extent federal guidance is reaching the intended clientele; nor what quantity of the guidance has been adopted by local emergency management organizations, jurisdictions and personnel. This study aims to identify a gap, if one exists, between Department of Homeland Security guidance on IRM (theory) and the local application of IRM (practice). Furthermore, there is a need to determine the width and breadth of the gap, if such a gap exists, and what possible improvements could potentially close the gap.
Does Developmental Education Meet Student Needs?
Many students graduating from Texas high schools, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, are underprepared for the rigor of college coursework, and they need extra help. Institutions of higher learning across the state have attempted to provide that help in the form of developmental education (DE)- supplemental instruction designed to fill in crucial gaps in a student’s knowledge base.
A Texan’s Guide to the Past, Present, and Future of the Economic Stabilization Fund Report
In November 1988, Texans approved the creation of the state’s Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF). Designed to help the state weather the storms of economic strife, budget shortfalls, and unexpected catastrophes, the Fund is currently accruing billions of dollars annually thanks to booming oil and gas severance tax revenues. Despite the Fund’s expanding reserves, access to its wealth is anything but a walk in the park; a fact no Texas lawmaker would dispute, having labored the summer away for a piece of the ESF pie even as robust economic figures swell the General Revenue and forecast prosperity into the near future. Many Texans are scratching their heads now, wondering whether the state’s rainy-day dollars might be used for anything from water projects to transportation infrastructure, or education and tax rebates, or whether they should remain untouched, jealously guarded against future unknowns and expanding government.
CommunitiWorks: Baseline Assessment and Recommendations
CW requires assistance in its efforts to evaluate the impact of their microfinancing strategies on their community recipients in Cambodia. Because of its expertise, the George Bush School of Government and Public Affairs, Texas A&M University has been selected to provide the necessary assistance. Given the recent implementation of CW Cambodia program, this project must be viewed from a multi-year perspective. Assistance will be required over a number of years. The Bush School is committed to providing assistance through year-long capstones. Hence, the purpose of this project is to recommend strategies for evaluating the impact of CW’s community-based financing strategies in Cambodia. This project will provide the foundation for
comprehensive evaluations of CW’s efforts in Cambodia in near future.
Not All Cavities Are Treated Equal
The purpose of this report is to examine oral health care for children in Texas. United Ways
of Texas is concerned with the disproportionate levels of access that low-income children
face. This research team was charged by United Ways to:
- Develop appropriate measures of access to preventive dental care for children
- Analyze the geographic and socioeconomic patterns of such access measures in Texas
- Calculate the expected benefits and costs of expanding access
There are significant disparities in access to oral health care for children in Texas. These disparities are frequently based on income levels, ethnic status, and if a child lives in an urban or rural area. Because disparity continues to exist among Texans, this report offers the following recommendations to improve access to dental care.
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.
A Community-Wide Financial Needs Assessment
Client: Community Development Services, City of Bryan, Texas
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 capstoneclass 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.
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.
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” http://bush.tamu.edu/?page_id=176Project 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 http://bush.tamu.edu/?page_id=176Team 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.
- Abriendo Puertas Executive Summary
- Abriendo Puertas Final Report
- Abriendo Puertas Appendices
- Abriendo Puertas Assessment Tool
- Abriendo Puertas English Parent Survey
- Abriendo Puertas 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 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.
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 program’s 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.
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.
- The ABCD’s of Texas Education ExecutiveSummary
- The ABCD’s of Texas Education Final Report
- The ABCD’s of Texas Education Appendices
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 Illegal Immigration
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 overwhelmingly 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’ in Minnesota
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.
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 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.
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.
A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Universally-Accessible Pre-Kindergarten Education in Texas
Client: The Texas Early Childhood Education Coalition (TECEC) and the Texas Program for Society and Health at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University
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 High-Quality Universally-Accessible Pre-Kindergarten Education in Texas
- 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 Rural Communities
Client: Texas Office for Rural Community Affairs
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?