Practicum & Capstone

The practicum and capstone project are important components of the UW Master of Public Health in Community-Oriented Public Health Practice program. These service-learning opportunities allow students to apply their classroom learning to a significant, hands-on work project in a local health organization or agency.


During the first year of the program, students take part in a practicum where they focus on gaining practical skills in public health practice. Our faculty compiles a comprehensive list of practicum opportunities. Many students choose to do their practicum projects with Public Health – Seattle & King County, a government agency that serves a resident population of 1.9 million people. Students may also pursue opportunities with other public health nonprofits and community agencies in the Puget Sound area, such as Urban Indian Health Institute, Seattle HIV/AIDS Planning Council, Planned Parenthood and the Healthy & Active Rainier Valley Coalition.

Students complete 120 hours of practicum work over two quarters with the guidance of a preceptor (mentor at the organization) and a faculty adviser. Examples of previous student practicum projects include:

  • Secret shopper survey of e-cigarette sales
  • Development of a marijuana-related ordinance
  • Assessment of elementary school-based health services
  • Development of a model for chronic disease community health worker training
  • Survey of injection drug users at the county needle exchange

See a list of other practicum projects for more examples.

Capstone Project

During the second year, COPHP students select a community-based setting for a yearlong capstone project that allows them to apply their advanced public health competencies and skills. Placement sites can include schools, community centers, policy advocacy groups, food banks and a variety of other kinds of organizations. The capstone often takes place at a site where students can develop relationships and expertise in a specialized area as preparation for their job search.

Capstone projects demonstrate the students' fully developed public health skills, such as the ability to perform data collection and analysis, program evaluation and program development and implementation. Students present their projects at a special year-end capstone presentation event open to their preceptors, families and friends.

Below is a sample of recent capstone projects:

  • Condoms and More in Cote d'Ivoire: An In-Depth Exploration of Public-Sector Family Planning Services
  • Feasibility Study of a Comprehensive Musculoskeletal Injury Prevention Program for King County Emergency Medical Responders
  • Quality of Maternal Care in Public Facilities for Women Living With HIV: Perceptions From Two Districts in Uttar Pradesh, India
  • Advocacy for Family Medical Leave Insurance in Washington State: Disseminating Working Mothers' Stories
  • Seeking Safety: Evaluating the Effects of the Paid Sick and Safe Time Ordinance on Survivors of Domestic Violence
  • Evaluating Processes for Latent Tuberculosis Follow-Up Among Refugees in Washington State
  • "Eye" Don't See the Relationship Between Vision and Academic Achievement in the Yakima Valley
  • The New Kid in School: Understanding the School Context and Its Influence on the Success of a New School-Based Mental Health Intervention
  • Diabetes-Friendly Community Kitchen Project: A Sustainable Approach to Support and Education for Adults With Type 2 Diabetes
  • An Evaluation of Select Seattle Emergency and Disaster Preparedness Education Programs and Their Effectiveness in Reaching Seattle's Vulnerable Populations

The following are example capstone proposals:

See the full list of previous COPHP capstone projects to get a better idea of the range of subjects that students focus on. For more information, see our Capstone Handbook.

In COPHP, we often worked hand-in-hand with communities to tackle issues ranging from [traffic] signal timing to health care coverage for prison inmates. This on-the-ground experience illustrated the multifaceted nature of public health and health care.

Amber Bronnum,
2012 Graduate

Public Policy and Government Relations Analyst, Group Health Cooperative

I think the most valuable skill I developed through COPHP was the ability to collect a lot of information about a complex idea, think critically about its source and implications, and synthesize all of that into a succinct argument or presentation. It is so easy to consume and regurgitate information; it is much harder to break a massive problem into its many component parts, think through them and develop a real, testable solution. That we are trained to do this with social justice and equity as a framework is especially valuable.

Genya N. Shimkin,
2012 Graduate

Founder and Project Lead, The Q Card: Empowering Queer Youth in Healthcare

You come out of this program with the experience of working with local community groups, doing projects for them and developing products that they can use and benefit from – that was really exciting. It gave us exposure to different aspects of public health and connections to the local public health community.

Emily deRiel, 2008 Graduate
Global Health Programs Team Lead, International Training & Education Center for Health, University of Washington