The New School Graduate Program in International Affairs
Practicum in International Affairs I: Project Design

Faculty: Chris London, Mona Shomali, Mark Johnson

Practicum in International Affairs I: Project Design (formerly Program Development and Project Management, or PDPM) provides the opportunity to develop a systematic understanding of key skills and concepts essential to effective project management. By examining the Project Cycle using real projects, students learn techniques and tools – needs assessment, stakeholder analysis, strategic design, logical framework, monitoring and evaluation, proposal and report writing, budgeting – used in formulating and managing projects for desired impact, while gaining knowledge of and advancing actual project work. By course end, students will also be familiar with aid and development work, its language and terminology, and different project structures, implementation practices, and strategies to address potential conflicts and obstacles. In addition, one cannot exist in the international arena without addressing cultural sensitivity, ethics, and socio-cultural, political and economic dilemmas.

PIA I Design (this course) and PIA II Implementation are sequential courses, and PIA I Design is the prerequisite to PIA II Implementation, which should be taken in the final semester. Thesis and non-GPIA students may take PIA I Design as an elective.

The Project: Students choose a real project to work on in PIA Design that may continue into PIA Implementation the following semester, so in choosing your PIA Design project (at beginning of this semester) keep in mind that it will likely be your PIA II: Implementation project. You are not, however, locked into your first semester project the following semester; if you wish to change you will be free to do so. Whether the project actually continues into PIA II Implementation also depends on its success and continued student interest.

PIA I Design uses the projects as focal points, vehicles to practice and apply the skills. In the application of these skills, the team also gains background knowledge on the organization, project sector, and the project itself in initiating research, if not completing actual deliverables. As part of comprehensive preparation for PIA Implementation, the final PIA I Project Design assignment is team preparation of an analytical and operational Concept Note / Work Plan / Terms of Reference that will serve as a transition into and guideline for the following semester’s PIA II Implementation work.

Course Philosophy: This course attempts to cover skills relevant and current in international program work. It is a survey course that will move quickly. Hopefully, you will leave feeling you have broad knowledge of the different skills and strategies used in the international program workplace; perhaps not “expert” in any one skill (that could take an entire semester), but feeling that you know terminology and basic use of the skill. Most sessions will begin with a lecture, but there will also be seminar discussion and activities to provide students with opportunities to practice and process what they learn.

Learning Outcomes: By course end students should be able to, within the above-stated limitations:
1. Conduct a basic needs assessment for a proposed project, including a stakeholder analysis
2. Develop a logical framework
3. Develop measureable indicators
4. Have ability to insert Monitoring and Evaluation into a project
5. Write a grant proposal
6. Develop a project budget

The Lab, Fridays 4:00pm-5:50pm and 2:00pm-3:50pm: Many of the skills require more than one classroom session to teach and learn. Students will on Fridays throughout the semester attend a lab session in which an instructor will guide them through an exercise to practice that skill. You are required to attend at least four sessions.

Additional Expectations:

● All assignments must be completed to pass the course.

● Deadlines: Each week’s assignment (unless otherwise stated) is due the day prior to class – Mondays at 11:59pm. Late assignments will not be accepted for grading; a late assignment will receive a check-off as completed but zero points toward a grade.

● No eating in class (unless sharing a class snack). Drinking beverages is permitted.

Attendance: As this is a skills course, you must attend class to understand the work and assignments. If you miss a class, you in effect miss that week’s skill. If you must miss a class, it is your responsibility to get the lecture notes and assignment from a teammate. Some lectures will be posted online; some will not. All assignments will be posted on Blackboard. If work obligations make it difficult to be in class on time, perhaps you should not take this section.
● University policy states that after two absences, the instructor must report any student receiving financial aid.
● Three class absences mandate reduction of one letter grade for the course. For significant lateness, the instructor may consider tardiness as an absence for the day. With four absences, the student fails the course.
● Extenuating circumstances could be the following:
● An extended illness requiring hospitalization or visit to a physician (with documentation)
● Family emergency, e.g. serious illness (with written explanation)
● Observance of a religious holiday
Attendance and lateness policies are enforced as of the first day of classes for all registered students. If registered during the first week of the add/drop period, the student is responsible for any missed assignments and coursework.

Teamwork: Everyone will be on a team based on project interest, and a substantial part of the course will be team work. Working on a team can be difficult. Ideally you will get along with the other team members, but that may not always be true. Recognize that this is a professional rather than personal relationship. Always keep it professional. If you are not getting along with a teammate, try to use the opportunity to problem-solve. If it gets to the point that project work is disrupted, bring it to instructor’s attention.

Readings and Assignments: Reading and work assignments will be posted on the class Blackboard page. Students should be ready to discuss on the day they are due. Completed assignments should be emailed to the instructor. Unless specified, you do not need to turn in a hard copy.

Class Communications: Newschool email will be used as the primary mode of communication. All readings and assignments will be posted on our Blackboard coursepage, unless otherwise specified.

Plagiarism is the unacknowledged use of another person’s words or ideas as one’s own in all forms of academic endeavor (essays, theses, examinations, research data, creative projects, etc), without proper acknowledgment, intentional or unintentional. Plagiarized material may be derived from a variety of sources, such as books, journals, internet postings, student or faculty papers. The University Learning Center also provides useful online resources to help students understand and avoid plagiarism, at As per university guidelines, a student who plagiarizes an assignment will receive a failing grade on that assignment or for the course, at the instructor’s discretion, and the Dean’s office will be notified. The instructor may also ask the Associate Dean for Student Affairs to convene the academic standards committee to consider additional penalties, including university dismissal.

Course Requirements and Grading: Classes will be a mixture of lecture, discussion, student presentations, and activities and exercises. Some assignments will be by team and some individual; your grade will therefore reflect both team and individual work. There will be many writing assignments. There will be much class discussion, and everyone is expected to speak and participate. At the end of the semester everyone will be required to submit a Peer Evaluation of their own and each group team member’s performance.

Grades will be composed of:
● Participation in class discussions and assigned readings (10% of total grade)
● Lab attendance and active participation
● Team assignments
● Individual assignments
● Mid-term examination
● Final Concept Note and/or Terms of Reference with accompanying project presentation, with all team members receiving same grade

Course Timeline: Assignments and readings listed here are subject to change based on class progress. Final readings and assignments with instruction details will be listed on Blackboard and given in class.

Session 1: International Landscape, and the Project Cycle
Lecture on international program work, and the different types of organizations and sectors involved. Many organizations attack problems by implementing projects, and many see that full implementation as a “project cycle,” which divides the project into phases with applicable tools.
Understanding course structure, grading requirements and reading materials through syllabus and Blackboard review.
Discussion of PIA project selection process and the projects themselves.

Session 2: Needs Assessment – Concept Mapping
In the first phase of the Project Cycle, the first steps in initiating a project are to fully understand the problem and actors involved. One tool to understanding a problem is concept mapping.
Team project presentations begin.

Session 3-4: Needs Assessment Tools
The needs assessment process involves information-gathering tools, including qualitative and quantitative methods. Also knowing all players involved in the project through Stakeholder Analysis.
Team project presentations continue.

Session 5-6: Project Design and The Logical Framework
Moving from information gathering into project design phase. Introduction to the Logical Framework, a complicated tool and methodology that can be the foundation of project design. The logframe can define and clarify goals, objectives and outcomes, as well as setting up Monitoring and Evaluation.

Session 7: Monitoring and Evaluation
Further develop the Logframe with Indicators as the basis for proper Monitoring and Evaluation to know project success, failures, effectiveness and progress.
Reading for this session: World Food Program training module pages 5-16.
Then World Bank 10 Steps to Results-Based M&E Handbook, chapters 3,4,5 and half of six; or pages 65-100.
Indicator sections in DfID sections 5.6 to 5.10

Session 8-9: Activity-Based Budgeting, and Basic Bookkeeping
Introduce activity-based budgeting for a project. Understanding categories and terms, including personnel, benefits, consultants, project expenses, travel, and direct versus indirect costs.
Basic bookkeeping will be introduced.

Session 10: In-Class Midterm Examination covering material from sessions 1-9.

Session 11: Grant Proposal Writing
An overview of formatting and writing a basic grant proposal for funding of a project.

Session 12: Writing and Editing

Session 13: Ethics
In an arena so broad and complicated, it is no surprise that international affairs is laden with ethical questions and landmines. We will discuss ethics through reviewing past and current ethical quandaries we have either encountered personally or through reading and media.

Session 14: Evaluation
Evaluating your project, and analyzing the evaluation and making program corrections. Finally, you will complete a self- and peer evaluation.

Session 15: Final Group Presentations
Project presentations to class.