Capstone DRAFT

Maryka Lier, MPH Class of 2014, presents on Capstone Day gender-based violence statistics related to her work with the Orange County Rape Crisis Center.

The yearlong Capstone project is the cornerstone of the health behavior MPH training program.

Capstone offers students the opportunity to synthesize and apply knowledge acquired through academic studies to a public health problem faced by a community organization or research team. A combination of coursework and mentored fieldwork, it is a vital learning opportunity for our students, based on a long tradition of commitment to fieldwork. 

"Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat."
Michael Wilson
MPH Class of 2014

Over the second year of the MPH program, teams of 4-6 students each work with a community partner on a set of deliverables that match the needs of the organization and interests of the students. These projects act in place of the master’s paper. The benefits of Capstone are two-fold: 1) Students have a substantive learning experience and tackle real-world public health problems; and 2) Community partners gain significant value from the experience, knowledge and skill-set of MPH students in order to achieve program objectives.

Capstone project work allows students to develop a wide range of skills such as:

  • Community engagement and assessment
  • Strategic or program planning
  • Curriculum and intervention development, adaptation, implementation and evaluation
  • Designing and conducting qualitative, formative and survey research
  • Policy advocacy and analysis
  • Grant and report writing
  • Social marketing campaign and communication strategy development

Capstone Successes

Improving Work-Site Wellness Among UNC Facilities Services Staff

Much research has shown that workplace wellness programs lead to lower medical costs and greater productivity among employees (Trust for America’s Health). Unfortunately, many employees do not take full advantage of their employer’s wellness benefits and programs, which in turn can negatively impact their health. Low-wage and shift workers are particularly at high risk of many health conditions as a result of their type of work and compensation, but their participation rates in work-site wellness programs are lower than their higher-earning counterparts.

This is especially evident with the UNC Facilities Services staff, many of who are low-income and immigrants, even escaping ethnic persecution. To combat these low rates, the UNC Work Well, Live Well Capstone team worked with the Carolina Collaborative for Research on Work and Health (CCRWH) to create a formative research report and Wellness Action Plan.

The Capstone team investigated the barriers and facilitators to participation in work-site wellness programs. Through interviews and focus groups with front-line workers and administrators, they found that factors such as exhaustion, lack of communication and limited time prevent staff members from participating. However, better program hours and management support may help increase involvement. These findings are discussed in their formative research report, which in turn informed the Wellness Action Plan. The action plan was crafted with the particular needs of shift-workers in mind and offers suggestion to improve the work environment.

In May 2014 as the Capstone team members graduated, they were able to add to their already tremendous contributions to CCRWH by securing funds to help implement their Wellness Action Plan. These funds were the result of winning a $2,500 implementation grant from Strowd Roses, a local nonprofit foundation dedicated to supporting the greater community of Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

The 2014-2015 Capstone team will use these funds to lay out and implement the first stages of a pilot wellness program for UNC Facilities Services staffers, as well as conduct a process evaluation. UNC is optimistic that, as a result of the dedicated work from last year’s and this year’s Capstone teams, university employee health will be on an upward trend.

 Reducing Unintentional Drug Overdose Deaths Through Policy Advocacy

Drug overdoses kill more than 1,000 people each year in North Carolina. But thanks to the work of the 2012-2013 NC Harm Reduction Coalition Capstone team and other harm reduction advocates, we may soon see that number go down.

On April 3, 2013, the NC general assembly passed the 911 Good Samaritan/Naloxone Access bill. This piece of legislation will reduce unintentional drug overdose deaths and was a huge win for the state as it was the only positive health-related bill passed during that legislative period.

The Capstone team’s primary work was to promote and advocate for the passage of the bill. Capstone team members engaged in several activities to educate and raise awareness and support for this policy, including planning and hosting a legislative summit on overdose prevention in Raleigh, NC, as well as media advocacy such as multiple published Op Eds and Letters to the Editor.

With the passage of the 911 Good Samaritan/Naloxone Access bill, anyone can seek help without the fear of being prosecuted when someone has alcohol poisoning or is overdosing. Under this new law, a person who suffers a drug overdose and the person who seeks help for them, including those underage, can’t be prosecuted for most low-level drug offenses or for possession of drug paraphernalia. Additionally, this law makes it easier for people to get access to naloxone, the antidote for an opioid overdose by permitting practitioners acting in good faith to prescribe this life-saving drug to people at risk of overdose as well as to their friends and family members without fear of civil or criminal liability.

The 2013-2014 NCHRC Capstone team continued the success of the previous year’s team by increasing access to naloxone at UNC and wrote a naloxone policy for the UNC System that can be adapted to other college campuses.

For more information please visit


What Agencies Are Saying About Capstone


“We could not have launched this new initiative without outside help. The Capstone team brought a great deal of energy and attention to detail to the project. We would never have conducted as thorough of an evaluation without them.” – Mary Fraser, preceptor 


“We benefitted in so many ways from having a Capstone Team. First, there is such limited capacity (human and financial) in Caswell County that the work the students conducted could have NEVER happened without their support. Overall, the fact that the Community Transformation Grant Project invested its time and energy into applying for and receiving a Capstone team showed the community that we were dedicated to improving their well-being. Then, once the team was on board, they really showed a sincere dedication to the people in Caswell County. They attended food council meetings, steering committee meetings, visited farms and frequented area businesses. The county really began embracing both them and us with open arms. They have most certainly improved our credibility in the County. Second, their work has really provided the background and data needed to bring more diverse partners on board, including the new Planning Director, Economic Development and Cooperative Extension. We are very excited to see what happens in the next few months due to their work.” – Annie Martinie, preceptor

“We benefited so much from having a Capstone team. To name a few things, the products they finished will assist us in talking to funders, seeking more funding, improving the impact of our community education programs, and possibly even attracting researchers in the future.” - Laurie Graham, preceptor 

Are you an organization that is interested in being a Capstone partner? Visit our community partners page for more information.