MPP Alumni Share Capstone Ideas with Current Students

Twenty-two alumni and friends of MSU’s Master of Public Policy program recently shared questions they would love to see MPP students research for their capstone projects.

The respondents to the capstone topic survey included recent MPP grads; graduates of MSU’s Master of Public Administration program, which was the precursor to today’s MPP program; and other MSU alums and friends of the MPP program.

Many of the respondents are now working with state- and municipal-level government agencies in Michigan; others work at nonprofits and in the private sector in other states and overseas.

Scroll down to see all of the questions suggested by respondents, organized by subject area of (some have been lightly edited for clarity).

Thanks again to everyone who shared ideas with us! We’re happy to receive more ideas too: if you have suggestions regarding the topics below, or if there are other topics you’d love to see MSU MPP students research, you can fill out the capstone topic survey or just send an email to MPP program director Valentina Bali (

Here are the questions we’ve received so far:


“I would like to see a capstone project explore Federal or state categorical grants that impact education.”
“K-12 funding and redistricting in the East Lansing School District; study of reconfiguration over the last three years and the next two.”
“What are the options—best and worst—to “fix” Detroit Public Schools?”


Elections and Voting

“The impact of voter ID laws and felon enfranchisement laws, state and local. Why not have mandatory voter registration in states—a database tied to something like SSN? Why not have Internet voting, when we can pay taxes online? (E.g., once you vote as yourself with a single user and password, there’s no more opportunity for fraud, ostensibly, and it’s easier.) Key question is: what would be the costs and benefits?”
“What is the effect of redistricting on public policy at the federal and state level?”


Energy Policy

“What sorts of effects do nations’ domestic energy policies produce in the arena of international politics?”
“How [and to what extent] does national energy policy influence local governments’ policies and decisions regarding energy?”


Health Policy in Michigan

“What impact has the introduction of electronic health records, and programs like the Medicare/Medicaid EHR Incentive Program (Meaningful Use) had on patient experience and outcomes?”



“Across the United States, what factors, structural or individual, influence experiences with homelessness? In what ways and at what levels?”
“There are some interesting questions that could be researched related to the famous “Housing First” policy implemented first in Los Angeles and more recently in Utah. Does it work for everyone? Would it work in Michigan? Are there patterns linking homeless/housing policy and state-level party politics? Do these patterns give any insight into current and potential policies in Michigan?”


“How can local policies, specifically in the city of Detroit, ensure opportunities for immigrants and inclusion during economic growth and urban renewal, and avoid further concentration of poverty?”


Municipal-Level Fiscal and Economic Development Policy in Michigan

“Why do some metropolitan areas have a higher percentage of residents living in unincorporated areas and thus receiving municipal services from the county instead of a city government?  Some county governments desire to shed themselves of large sections of heavily populated unincorporated territory while other counties seek to hang on to those residents—why?  Is it purely an income (taxing) issue?”
Home rule cities in Michigan pay full county tax levies but receive negligible returns in the form of county services. Can you quantify the extent of this imbalance?”
“A student could take a look at pension benefits and liabilities for local governments across the state and explore demographic and plan information to see which factors significantly impact the scale of the liability. There could also be analysis of public safety liability compared to all other plans, or analysis of current revenue-sharing methods and a proposal of a new formula and exploration of its potential impacts.”
“A student could explore the effects of various financial education programs on literacy and people’s behavior towards money (spending, saving, preparing pension).”


Municipal Economic Development Policy in China

“In China, each city has its own preferential policy to attract and support venture companies to settle there. Students could compare the different policies and regional conditions to evaluate which regions and policies would be most attractive for new investments from venture companies.”


State Government and American Indian Reservations in Michigan

“Given the historical background of treaties between the Federal Government and American Indian tribes, some of which pre-date the establishment of many states, what authority, if any, do State Governments (particularly Michigan), have to enforce or engage in public safety, the regulation of Indian Gaming, and other regulatory activities on American Indian reservations?

State Fiscal Policy in Michigan

How does the current state budget compare with past budgets? Does the state have more money than it used to, or less? How has the trend affected the types of spending the state does?”

State Rights versus Federal Mandates in Michigan

How does the interplay of the constitutional rights and limits on state versus federal activities play out in key policy areas in Michigan?


Transportation and Infrastructure

“Does access to public transportation in a locality promote economic development and reduce unemployment?”
“A student could explore innovative approaches for state and local government to jointly finance infrastructure rehabilitation.”

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