Student Capstone Projects

Image of a man and child walking a horse down a dirt road

Student Capstone Projects

Students in the Master of Arts in Community Development Policy and Practice take a course sequence in Project Design, Implementation, Management, and Evaluation — and put theory into practice through a major applied project.

Projects have been carried out at different locations within North America and across the globe.  To read about student projects completed in each region of the world, click on the region’s name below.


Promoting Needed Reforms in the Nigerian Oil and Gas Sector - Safiya Mohammed Adamu 

The country of Nigeria derives approximately 94% of its revenue solely from the production and sale of crude oil. Unfortunately, this sector is fraught with massive corruption, resulting in lost revenue to the government which directly impacts community development programs.  This capstone project sought to raise public awareness of this critical issue and promote public action to put pressure on the government to make changes in public policy requiring the oil and gas sector to be more open and transparent to put a stop to the rampant corruption. I collaborated with media outfits to disseminate information to the public and organized numerous roundtable discussions and media engagements. My project resulted in sector whistle blowing that caused an uproar in the country. The federal government consequently appointed a firm to audit the sector and uncover the corruption.

Education in Puntland: A System of Hope and Great Challenges (Puntland, Somalia) - Shukri Warsame

Due to severe managerial, technical, and financial resource limitations, there are considerable disparities in the quality of and access to education for schoolchildren in the Puntland region of Somalia. There is also a considerable gender inequality gap, with males significantly outnumbering females in enrollment rates. In order to improve the ability for girls to participate or continue their education, my project will offer events for parents and other community members to increase their awareness of the value of education and also organize groups that would then advocate for equal access to education. My project also will increase the ability of schools to provide high-quality education by organizing skills workshops to improve teaching ability and by promoting the utilization of uniform curriculum.

Empowering Somali Youth to Prevent Radicalism & Piracy (Mogadishu, Somalia)- Safia Farah

More than 70 percent of Somali youth today lack employment opportunities stemming from twenty-one years of civil war and a vacuum of government institutions. These factors and pervasive youth hopelessness have led to war profiteers and criminal enterprises taking advantage of Somali youth, leading to involvement in both terrorism and piracy. This pilot project in Mogadishu provides youth with an opportunity to develop and implement projects. The goal is to inspire the local community and businesses in Somalia to duplicate these programs of youth employment creation to prevent the Somali youth’s dire situation, hence improving the security situation for the country.

Capacity Building of a Youth-focused Organization in Somalia- Ruqia Mohamed

A youth-focused non-profit organization in Somalia is expanding its services into another area of the country. However, there is a lack of organizational capacity in the expansion area which could affect the ability of the organization to effectively and efficiently contribute to the development of its youth. This project seeks to improve the capacity of the organization’s development department by improving basic communication skills needed to raise funds, financial and organizational management skills to effectively run the organization, and to increase their ability to make their services known to the youth in the expansion area.

Playground at Atlabara West Basic School (South Sudan) - Lado Lodoka

Children in primary schools in the Juba District of South Sudan have few opportunities to engage in structured physical activity in school, thereby limiting their ability to socialize in a play-based setting outside of the classroom. Because of this, some children are less motivated to attend school. My project addresses this gap by coordinating with school officials, teachers and parents to generate, install and maintain playground facilities in these schools – thereby increasing group socialization opportunities and decreasing incidents of low self-esteem, depression, lack of classroom concentration, poor grades, cognitive delay, and school drop out.

The African Future’s Response to the Horn of Africa Famine and Beyond (Somalia) - Hibak Kalfan

The African Future (TAF), a Somali relief organization that I co-founded in 2008, reacted to the massive famine in the Horn of Africa during the summer and fall of 2011 by feeding over 50,000 Somalis along the Kenyan and Ethiopian borders and allowing for most Somalis to stay within their country. My project reflects on TAF’s reaction to the famine; builds systems and a 2012 strategic plan for TAF; and begins to develop and implement an array of new programming in Somalia. It is a long-term project intended to evolve into future strategic plans and programming.

Empowering An Island Community Through A Microfinance Program (Talalora, Samar Philippines)—Rodel Bombase

Talalora, Samar is one of the hardest-to-reach island communities in the province of Samar, Philippines. Talaora's main source of income is limited to fishing and farming therefore community members have limited financial capital, income sources, and very little to no savings or insurance. The purpose of the project is to reduce poverty in Talalora by providing its community members with access to micro-insurance, savings, and additional financial capital and livelihood programs through the Center for Agriculture and Rural Development, Inc. and its partner organizations.


Providing Microfinance for Indigenous People in Lake Sebu (Philippines) - Welland Sales

My capstone project provided Indigenous people of Lake Sebu (a tiboli & Tiruray tribes) an opportunity to learn how to save money through microfinance savings accounts, obtain micro-insurance to safeguard them during times of uncertainty, and obtain loans when needed.  Project participants were supported with regular technical assistance in their villages through education programs including: financial and non-financial literacy, health education, community issues, business development strategies, and trainings to increase income while managing risks to protect families and meet their future needs. 

Konek2CARD:  Making Microfinance Affordable for Economically Challenged Families (Philippines) - Roderick Mercado

In the Philippines, microfinance services (savings, insurance, and loans) are often inaccessible for economically challenged families because of the high interest rates that microfinance organizations must charge to recover the increased cost of doing business.  The konek2CARD project hopes to solve this problem by introducing mobile banking for low-income clients.  This will reduce the administrative costs of serving low-income families, allowing CARD Bank to reduce its loan interest rates for their economically challenged clients.

Solar Power for the Non-Electrified Areas of Maasim, Sarangani (Philippines) - Diolito Valdemar

The indigenous people living in the mountainous Barangays of Amsipit and Kamanga in the Philippines are using gas lamps that are expensive and their light output is poor. More concerning is their production of toxic smoke in homes which is not healthy for families. This project’s goal is to provide solar units at an affordable price with an easy payment plan, making them accessible for those with very low incomes. The benefits of these solar units are many and include extending family socialization time at night, increasing study time for children, and because the units can provide power in addition to light, can be used for profit-generating activities and other household electric needs.

Yap Animal Welfare Project (Yap, Micronesia) - Elizabeth Lee

My project provides resources and education to allow the residents of Yap, a small island in Micronesia, to humanely care for and control the overpopulation of animals. My project works with the Yapese to create laws to punish abuse/neglect of animals as well as educate the communities on the detrimental effects exposure to these actions has on children. The project also works to set up a facility and resources for veterinarian services, create curriculum for animal welfare education for the schools, and present to legislature the need for containment laws for animals on island.

High-Tech Solution for Informed Decision-Making in a Mutual Benefit Association (Philippines) - Joseph Alip

Due to the lack of a management information system (MIS) structure, Mutual Benefit Associations (MBAs) are not able to make well-informed decisions when it comes to managing the funds entrusted to them by the members/clients. Quidan Pag-Inupdanay MBA is an NGO based in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental in the Philippines. They cater to the micro insurance needs of some 25,000 clients. The clients are from the low income sector, earning less than $100 monthly. My project intends to put in place a software solution which consolidates and processes data into meaningful reports. Having a credible and reliable MIS in place will help the management make informed decisions in safeguarding the mutual funds of the low income sector. Project activities include conducting capacity building trainings for the local NGO staff, and enlisting the support of funders to establish a potent MIS.

Savings Groups in Santa Lucia (Guatemala) - Andrew Becker  

This project addresses the lack of savings practices and access to affordable credit in the community of Santa Lucia, Guatemala by introducing savings groups, a new option for financial management. These groups of trusted members create a group fund by saving small amounts each month and then mobilizing those savings in the form of low interest loans to the groups’ members. These informal community banks allow members to learn how to save regularly and give them a place to deposit those savings outside of the home while also giving access to small amounts of credit to be used for investment in income generating activities. Solidarity is formed among members and little by little they are able to prove to themselves that they can take control over their own finances and progress as a community. 

Action Plan for Community Development Based on Turtle Conservation in La Flor Wildlife Refuge (Nicaragua) - Liza Ivanova Gonzalez

Poachers have decimated the sea turtle population in La Flor Reserve in Nicaragua, one of the most important mass nesting beaches in the Eastern Pacific.  This project hopes to prevent ongoing conflicts between poachers, community members, and reserve managers by providing alternative sources of income and improving the integration of local communities to reduce poaching and preserve the reserve’s rich biodiversity through sustainable use of its natural resources. 

The Feasibility of the Biodigester System in Las Marias, Puerto Rico- Von Ferguson

Plenitud Initiative Eco-Education, a small grassroots permaculture organization, would like to build a demonstrative biodigester, but it faces a lack of resources, knowledge and skills, human labor, and time. This project involves research into their current waste management practices, feasibility, and demand of alternative and more sustainable systems for Plenitud and local residents in Alto Sano, Las Marias, Puerto Rico. The result of this research will determine whether the biodigester is the most suitable waste management system for Plenitud and Alto Sano.

Marine Sustainability and Tourism in La Caleta, the Dominican Republic- Kristen Fitzpatrick

Just outside of the city of Santo Domingo, lies La Caleta, a National Underwater Park. Due to decades of overfishing and unsustainable practices, the marine life that once flourished there has been severely compromised. Through the efforts of Reef Check Organization, there is now an Aquatic Center, offering locals in the fishing community the ability to subsidize their incomes while simultaneously maintaining sustainable practices of the Underwater Park. This project aims to assist the Aquatic Center in achieving financial self-sustainability through more effective marketing practices.


Dolores Women’s Cacao Project (Dolores, Belize) - Robin Husslage

The women cacao farmers living in the remote Mayan village of Dolores, Belize, are unable to access the organic cacao market in Punta Gorda with improved commodity prices in order to increase their incomes above subsistence levels. This project is designed to sustainably increase the incomes of 49 women cacao farmers, allowing them to provide for their family’s healthcare and education needs by providing the training, support, and tools required for increasing the quantity and quality of their processed cacao beans. This includes new facilities (nursery, fermentation and drying), quality control/tracking procedures, and the safe storage and transportation of beans to access premium Fair Trade pricing.

Linking Youth & Their Parents to Partner Organizations In Dover, Delaware – Daniel NahImage of Daniel Nah and Group Discussion

This project focused on implementing a youth empowerment program in a low income housing complex in Dover, DE. The program was designed to create awareness among youth (and their parents) by linking them to organizations that can assist them in transitioning into responsible adulthood. This project targeted participants between the ages of 18 to 24 years old and its goals included:  improved employment opportunities, financial stability, reduced incarceration rates, and higher educational attainment.


Image of Jessica Powell and Group DiscussionProjecting the Economic Benefits of the Naugatuck River Greenway – An Economic Impact Analysis (Connecticut, USA)  – Jessica Powell 

This project is an important part of Protecting the Economic Benefits of the Naugatuck River Greenway study and includes assessing the economic and quality of life impacts resulting from the construction of a 44-mile long trail along the Naugatuck River, affecting 11 Connecticut Municipalities. This study information will assist the linked municipalities in maximizing their benefits through enhanced community ownership, residential and commercial development, increased consumerism and ultimately identifying the value added environmentally, socially, and economically of multi-use greenways.  


Decreasing Violent Behavior and Negative Life Attitudes of Youths Ages 16-24 in Oakland, CA USAMarie Roberts de la Parra image of presentation 

My project focuses on decreasing violent behavior and negative life attitudes of youths aged 16-24 living in Oakland, CA. Through a series of workforce development workshops which include mindfulness strategies, leadership training, forgiveness work, and employable skills development, this project’s goal is to improve these youths’ life and employment outlooks.

Expanding Mental Health Resources for Univeristy of New Hampshire Athletes (Durham, NH USA)Heather KashmanImage of a group of people on a basketball court

Mental illness affects the lives of many individuals, especially those athletes in the NCAA community. The stresses of excelling academically combined with the stress of being required to perform at peak levels in competition can put severe pressure on college athletes. This stress can lead to the development of long lasting mental health disorders that some athletes will continue to struggle with throughout their life. The prevalence of mental illness in NCAA athletes has always existed, however it has never been properly addressed as it should. This project aims to eliminate the negative stigma that exists in the University of New Hampshire athletic community and help both athletes and coaches build the knowledge and skills to handle mental illness properly. The removal of this stigma will help facilitate an increased dialogue between coaches and athletes, helping athletes to implement better mental health practices, thus decreasing long term debilitating mental illness.

Addressing Food Insecurity in the Georgetown,MA Community - (Abe) Olaiseh Wambui

New Life Community Food Pantry (NLCFP) is a community-based project that aims to provide food and grocery support for food insecure households in the town of Georgetown, Massachusetts. Currently the pantry provides groceries and other essential non-food items to around 100 people on a weekly basis and is working towards providing more integrated and sustainable interventions to food insecure families in the area.  Georgetown is an economically developed town with a high standard of living, however there are few social services in place making it economically and socially challenging for the “poor” who live there. This project aims to bridge the gap for the growing number of families who not only are food insecure but who also do not meet the criteria for state and federal support by providing a safety net for needy families in Georgetown, MA. 

Raising Public Awareness of the Need for Maine to Opt In to the Medicaid Expansion Plan (Maine, USA) - Karen Ilene Mignano

The recent Medicaid Expansion offered as an option to states as part of the Affordable Care Act would have allowed 70,000 people in Maine with incomes of approximately $15,000 or less to enroll in Medicaid. However, Maine’s governor vetoed the bill to expand Medicaid, making it impossible for these individuals to enroll, many of whom are homeless.  In partnership with Maine People’s Alliance, the goal of this project is to raise public awareness of this issue so that voters can apply pressure to Maine politicians and legislators so they will vote to opt in to the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid Expansion.

Innovative Solutions to Reduce Recidivism( Alaska, USA) - Ted Madsen

The budget requirements of the Alaska Department of Corrections are increasing too fast, primarily due to high rates of recidivism (former prisoners who are rearrested for a similar offense). This project seeks to reduce recidivism by writing legislation that allows the executive branch to issue a "social impact bond (SIB)." The proceeds from the SIB will be used to scale up a select group of programs at various correctional institutions in Alaska that have demonstrated success at reducing recidivism at the local level. These scaled-up programs will have a greater impact statewide and, in the long run, bend the budget cost-curve in a downward direction. The project will benefit both incarcerated persons and community members who will experience a lower crime rate.

Strategic Planning to Alleviate Food Insecurity in North Lake Tahoe/Truckee (California, USA) - Hayley Collins

Project MANA, a small nonprofit organization providing hunger-relief to community members of North Lake Tahoe/Truckee, California, would like to develop a vision for the agency that is informed by the community’s needs, but faced a lack of resources to develop a comprehensive needs assessment and an organization wide strategic plan. This project’s goal is to develop and implement a community needs assessment which will guide the development of a 3-year strategic plan for Project MANA.  This will allow Project MANA to more effectively engage with community stakeholders, identify unmet needs related to food security, and refocus all efforts on those needs that the community has identified.

Market Opportunities for New Hampshire Seafood (New Hampshire, USA) - Eliot Jones

During the last decade, the fishing industry in New Hampshire has seen about 98% of the domestic catch exported, while importing low-cost seafood from other areas. Due to federal regulations that put catch quotas on certain types of ground fish, the industry has been forced to look for sustainable measures to incorporate under-utilized species into local markets. This project has 3 main goals: (1) to understand consumer preferences (2) to determine market capability for underutilized seafood in grocery stores, restaurants, and seafood-specific markets, and (3) to strategically investigate potential markets and products to help aid the ailing ground fishing fleet.

Enabling Immigrant Sudanese Youth Dropouts in Portland, Maine, to Get Reliable Jobs - Adam Babala

The lack of basic educational foundation skills, English language skills, and resources contributes to the dropout rate of immigrant Sudanese youth in Portland, Maine, resulting in their inability to obtain high school diplomas and get reliable jobs. This leads to issues with parents/guardians, the police and legal system, and even imprisonment and possible deportation. This project intends to raise awareness of the benefits of obtaining high school diplomas, seeking counseling services, enlisting volunteer teachers and tutors, and encouraging volunteering opportunities.

Writing to Communicate (New Hampshire, USA)- Hannah MacBride

In the Winnisquam Regional School District of New Hampshire, test scores have been decreasing across the board over the last ten years with students currently scoring far below average in writing. The school has chosen to focus its efforts on improving writing, since writing as a form of communication is essential for college and many careers. The goal of this project is to incorporate a writing curriculum into math, science, and social studies classrooms to ensure students are writing to communicate in all classes.


Ensuring a Continued Dedication to Men Of Strength:Diversity Education and Family (MOS:DEF) (New Hampshire, USA)- Otis Douce

MOS:DEF was founded to provide a venue of support for men of color at UNH. Statistics demonstrate that students in this category drop out at a higher rate and feel an increased sense of isolation on campus. The group seeks to help sharpen academic acuity and to construct a type of family functioning at the university level to retain viable numbers of male students of color and to contribute to the University’s goal of maintaining a diverse campus environment. This project’s goal is to enhance the ability of MOS:DEF to thrive at UNH long term.

Sunflower County United for Children (Mississippi, USA)- William Buster

Sunflower County in Mississippi is a community where 90 percent of students are African-American. The legacy of racism and low expectations of its children leave many of Sunflower County’s African-American children receiving an inadequate and inequitable education. This project will begin to address the issues preventing high educational attainment of the county’s children by increasing the number of high quality early childcare providers, supporting parents to help their children come to kindergarten with more resources ready to learn, and equipping principals and teachers to provide excellent education through professional development and better curriculum development.

Combating Illiteracy among Azande Elderly in Portland, Maine- Michael Augustino

Due to illiteracy, elderly Azande in Portland, Maine, are impacted by a number of daily challenges. They are challenged with the inability to read their mail, pay bills, go to their appointments unaccompanied, safely take medications, be involved in school meetings to represent their children, get stable jobs, get Federal benefits (such as SSI), get U.S. government protection in case they travel outside the United States, and easily obtain U.S. citizenship documents. This project will provide the necessary resources for improving literacy among five Elderly Azande by offering bilingual language classes, transportation services, and health education.

Support for Immigrant Mothers (Massachusetts, USA)- Aruna Sharma

Recent immigrant mothers in Acton, Massachusetts, and surrounding areas suffer from isolation that leads to depression and a vulnerability to domestic abuse. There are many groups and organizations that exist to support mothers, but they fail to address and meet some of the unique needs of immigrant mothers who want to maintain their culture while integrating into their communities. This project addresses some of these issues and focuses on finding a solution to support healthy lifestyles for immigrant mothers and their children by providing a support group for cultural parenting issues, emergency child care support, and training for future employment.

Physical Activity Among Somali Women in Portland, Maine- Deqa Dhalac

Somali women living in the United States are at risk for chronic health conditions due to changes in lifestyles following immigration. Numerous barriers to physical activity have been reported among immigrant Somali women, such as lack of financial resources, transportation, and language and cultural barriers. This project focuses on increasing the physical activity level among the Somali women in Portland, Maine, through conversations that explore barriers to fitness and exercise; raise awareness of the social, physical, and cultural effects of physical activity; and explore solutions to facilitate Somali women’s access to fitness opportunities.

Ensuring Sustainability and Profitability in New Hampshire’s Fishery - Tyler Mac Innis

The sustainability of local, independent fishers operating in New Hampshire’s fishery is challenged by an influx in external competition, evolving markets, and rising costs of operation. My project seeks to maintain New Hampshire’s fishery by implementing a series of initiatives to help local fishers better adapt to the changing industry landscape and remain competitive – including the establishment of a second fishing cooperative in order to insulate fishers from the costs of operation, an expansion in processing capacity, better access to local markets, and increased knowledge and skills in direct marketing. This project will work with independent fishers, processors, buyers and distributers, as well as area business owners, local food advocates, and community organizations in order to ensure a well-rounded and holistic approach to implementation.

Citizenship Support in Portland, Maine - Samuel Albino

A significant number of elderly South Sudanese residents of Portland, ME, are unable to acquire U.S. citizenship. Because of this, some of them lose federal benefits after seven years, are limited in their ability to travel to their country of origin to re-connect with family, are unable to invite family members to travel to the U.S., and are unable to participate in local and federal elections. My project addresses the causes of the problem, namely, lack of educational background from childhood, limited English language skills, and impairment and chronic illnesses brought about by advanced age.

Immigrant Parent Educational Support Structure (Washington, USA) - Saharla Hassan

Parents belonging to a community of recent immigrants in Seattle, WA, are incapable of providing school-related support to their children, thereby affecting the latter's ability to perform well in school. My project will address factors that impede parents from providing school-related support, including increasing parents' knowledge of the American educational system and skills in the English language and improving teachers’ awareness of the students' situation at home.

NEH Challenge Grant Proposal for Ethics & Civic Engagement Initiative, UNH Honors Program (New Hampshire, USA) - Amy Cunningham

The University of New Hampshire’s undergraduate core curriculum lacks an engaged citizenship component that is credit bearing and connected to academics. My project is to develop a citizen engagement requirement as part of the undergraduate core curriculum – connecting students to opportunities that help them to understand, and critically reflect upon the issues that shape the choices they face as citizens.

$ Matter Circular Head Financial Literacy Project (Australia) - Julia Curtis

The $ Matter program seeks to work with young Aboriginal women from the Circular Head Aboriginal Community for one year to improve financial skills practices.  Increasing financial literacy has the potential to address the complex issues of persistent disadvantage in the community by reducing welfare dependency and improving life chances for the young women and their children. This project will use a mix of direct activities with the participants such as, introducing budgeting behaviors and teaching about money, and will build ongoing capacity at the community level through the development of a cohort of money mentors, incorporating a peer-to-peer learning model.

Mulheres Mil of Valenca: Women’s Health Training Course (Bahia, Brazil) - Sope Ogunrinde

In Valenca, in the Northeastern state of Bahia in Brazil, many women abandon school to learn and assist their family’s fishing operations – then struggle to enter the formal labor sector. Begun in 2005, the Mulheres Mil project works with a specific marginalized population: young and mature women, poorly educated, socially and economically vulnerable and excluded from the labor market. My project’s goals are to improve the women’s education, to offer them professional qualifications, and to help them to enter the labour market. Beyond these immediate goals, the program also changes the women helps them to rediscover their citizenship, thereby restoring their self-esteem and improving their family and community relations.

Santa Angela Center: Restaurant & Youth Training Center (Chiclayo, Peru) - Lina Bowden

The community of Jose Leonardo Ortiz is the poorest district of the city of Chiclayo in Peru, where infrastructure and proper services (such as proper housing, sanitation, paved roads and sewage systems) are greatly lacking. Through development of a restaurant and youth training center, my project will enable youth (ages 17-24) to develop skills (both human development skills and technical job skills) that will help them secure a stable source of income. It will also enable the district’s citizens to receive low cost, nutritious meals and community events. The project team will establish a restaurant in the civic square by September 2012. In its second year, the restaurant will begin a youth training program in restaurant management and in its third year the center hopes to be self-sustaining.