Systems Synthesis Projects are a culminating experience for students in the Master of Science in Public Policy and Management (MSPPM) program at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College. These projects, conducted in lieu of a thesis, provide students with hands-on experiences that parallel the activities and issues they will encounter in the workplace. Working with a client organization, groups of students spend a full semester (15 weeks) addressing an issue of importance to the client.
Under the guidance of a systems synthesis advisor, the students identify the issue, gather and analyze data, and prepare findings and recommendations for the client. It also allows students to integrate the skills learned from their coursework at Heinz--including economics, statistics, management science, financial analysis, organizational management, policy analysis, database management, oral and written communication skills and others—as they tackle important policy and management problems. The project provides students with “real-world” experience in teamwork, analysis, project management and client relations.
General role of project advisors:
The project advisor’s role consists of providing guidance to the project team, assisting in resolving student disputes, providing feedback from peer evaluations, guidance on project deliverables (i.e. presentations to an advisory committee, final report, and poster board) and assigning a grade to each student. The team will consist of 4 – 7 master’s students.
As an advisor you are tasked with providing guidance, but not control of the project. Allow students the room to lead the direction of the project; however, be available to provide guidance if students are struggling with a component of the project. A good time to intervene is if students struggle with defining the scope after the second week. Avoid the two extremes in advising projects—the micromanaging advisor that provides constant direction or the laissez-faire advisor who provides no guidance when the students need it.
At times students may encounter conflict within the team. Part of your role is to assist students in resolving team conflicts they are unable to manage on their own. Some teams establish “communication” rules early in the semester as a means to get students on the same page. Managing the budget, finances and reporting obligations.
Timeline for Project:
Students are enrolled in Systems Synthesis during the Fall semester from August 26 – December 6.
You should demonstrate:
Effective, engaging, and compelling communication, with the capacity to guide students and engage with clients as needed.
Innovation, integrity, and expertise in consulting and/or project management.
A strong sense of collaboration and enthusiasm for guiding a student-led team and providing feedback at multiple points in the project
A strong grasp of the challenges within a consulting project
About Carnegie Mellon University
Carnegie Mellon (www.cmu.edu) is a private, internationally ranked research university with programs in areas ranging from science, technology and business, to public policy, the humanities and the arts. More than 12,000 students in the university’s seven schools and colleges benefit from a small student-to-faculty ratio and an education characterized by its focus on creating and implementing solutions for real problems, interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation. A global university, Carnegie Mellon’s main campus in the United States is in Pittsburgh, Pa. It has campuses in California’s Silicon Valley and Qatar, and programs in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and Mexico.