Rice University

Rice University Center for Civic Leadership

Civic Leadership Capstone: UNIV 402 and UNIV 403

UNIV 402 (3 credits) is required of students completing the Certificate in Civic Leadership. UNIV 402, offered each fall semester, prepares students to complete high-level, independent, community-based projects and enhances students’ inclination and capacity to lead in a variety of community settings. 

Students in UNIV 402 will move through three main stages in the development of their project proposal: (1) naming and framing the issue that their project will address; (2) defining a specific community need (and a specific location) that the project will target; (3) designing a creative, realistic, and appropriate plan to the to meet the community need. Students will be responsible for drafting relevant portions of their proposal during each of these stages.

UNIV 403 is an independent course that requires students to implement their projects under the supervision of a faculty advisor. In addition the project, each student must complete the following requirements:

  • complete their proposed project during the following spring or summer;
  • present at Rice Undergraduate Research Symposium (RURS) or similar opportunity;
  • submit a final reflection paper synthesizing their leadership experience, project, and future career, personal, and academic goals.

How do I move from UNIV 402 to UNIV 403 and implement my project proposal? 

Before the end of the semester, students will submit their completed proposal to the UNIV 402 course instructor, a committee of CCL staff, the student’s chosen faculty advisor, and a designated representative from the project’s community partner for approval. Students whose proposals are approved by all parties listed above will be invited to apply for an additional 3-credit project course for project completion in the spring, summer, or fall, following UNIV 402. 

Project Funding 
Students may be able to apply to the CCL for project funding. CCL funding may be used for costs specific to developing and implementing a capstone project including, project supplies and materials, printing costs, and in some cases transportation. Through the UNIV 402 course students will be guided through the CCL funding application process. Students who propose projects with budgets exceeding the CCL funding are free to apply for additional external funding or raise additional funds on their own in order to meet their project budget needs.
Previous Capstone Projects


Adeola Adegabi
In School Suspension: Systems, Processes, & Implementation
Partner: HISD
Methodology: Interviewed 5 faculty at an HISD high school Conducted observations in ISS classroom Researched ISS models and best practices. 

Daniel Cortez
Emerging Latino Leaders Fellowship Program
Partner: Mi Familia Vota
The Emerging Latino Leaders (ELL) Fellowship was created in the spring of 2015 through collaboration between Rice University’s Center for Civic Leadership and Mi Familia Vota—a non-profit, non-partisan, national organization dedicated to increasing Latino civic engagement.

Grant Patterson
Block Heroes: Participatory Placemaking in the Fifth Ward
Partner: Fifth Ward Community Development Program

Block Heroes has been a collaboration between Grant Patterson of Rice University’s Center for Civic Leadership, Krystal Hasselmeier of the Fifth Ward Community Redevelopment Corporation, Sandra Flowers of the Greater Fifth Ward Stakeholders’ Partnership, Monique Ward of METRO. It could not have been done without the support of Stephen Sye of Habitat for Humanity, Houston. With the framework for the project laid down in Fall 2014, during the Spring 2015 semester, planning and implementation took place. The final work day, which included a volunteer group from Rice and METRO working on houses and planting plants on Coke Street, is set to take place on May 9th. The goal of the project was to do a participatory placemaking process in the Fifth Ward. This is to say that residents on a single block were to come together to imagine the Fifth Ward and their street at its best and to come up with implementable projects to get closer to that vision. The process of creating and implementing these goals, and all of the challenges and victories that have happened in between, are what made the placemaking effort. In working with each other and me to plan these projects, reach out to political and nonprofit actors for assistance in their goals, residents became closer to one another.

Kelsey Walker
Partner: Houston Metro


Daniella Maldonado
Community Curriculum: Inspiring Students Through Cultural Learning
Partner: Pleasant Hill After School Enrichment

Based on the identified needs of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church’s youth program, this project is centered on incorporating a community-based curriculum into the Pleasant Hill After School Enrichment program (PHASE) that serves students in grades K-12 in the Fifth Ward area of Houston. This curriculum uses interviewing, storytelling, and other activities to engage students and provide them with an outlet for imagination and creativity while also expanding upon basic knowledge and skills in reading, writing, and math. The project adds to existing research on place-based learning activities and asset-based models of education, such as that of Luis Moll. Given the growing focus on preparation for generic, impersonal standardized testing in the classroom, the goal of this curriculum is to emphasize local and community history in order to give students a sense of confidence, personal pride, and belonging. Surveys have been administered to gauge the student engagement with the curriculum. The lesson plans have been adapted throughout the semester to fit students’ particular needs and are structured to allow students to have ownership over their learning during the program and foster their own interests.

Linda Park
Community Garden Needs Assessment
Partner: IEDA Relief

Community gardens, also known as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), have recently garnered support as a form of civic engagement that empowers solidarity of a community. IEDA Relief, a non-profit organization that serves refugees in Houston, plans to adopt a community garden project. Through this program, IEDA Relief aims to provide refugees with a productive stress-relieving activity, to increase the amount of healthy, culturally appropriate food, and to improve refugees’ sense of community engagement and belonging in Houston. This needs study assesses the practicality and relevance of IEDA Relief’s community garden program and its goals. It incorporates interviews and surveys of the refugees regarding their motivations and interests to initiate the community garden program. Furthermore, the study addresses other models of refugee community gardens to identify the various options that can best accommodate the needs of IEDA refugees. The findings for this study will provide insights to IEDA in deciding to initiate and to design the program. 

Bridget Schilling
Teen Healthy Relationships Curriculum
Partner: Pleasant Hill Leadership Institute

This project was to develop a teen healthy-relationships curriculum for Pleasant Hill Leadership Institute that will build on their scheduled spiritual development workshops and challenge students’ conceptions of what healthy relationships entail. It will be based around the best practices recommended by the Center for Disease Control and will be created so that it is able to be implemented for multiple years, without being overly repetitive. It will be designed to take advantage of student engagement and build leaders in discussion settings, while promoting PHLI’s mission of cultivating Christian, college-bound leaders.


Ann Wells
What Happens After We Leave? Increasing Ethical Ambitions in Engineering and Sustainable International Community Development
Partners: Amigos de las Americas and Engineers Without Borders

Undergraduate engineering students at Rice University are trained within a need-based, problem-oriented framework. The resulting skillset is limited and allows for an inflated sense of their capacity to address the human impact of infrastructural development projects. This project aims to utilize and asset-based approach to reorient undergraduate international community development initiatives towards a more sustainable, community-centered model. A transdisciplinary curriculum was developed by AMIGOS de las Americas, a Houston-Based non-profit that uses an asset-based approach to international youth leadership initiatives. The curriculum was implemented over 3 AMIGOS-Rice Engineering Training Modules with two undergraduate engineering design teams. The success of this project distinctly relies on local partnerships that implement innovative technology in low resource populations with a commitment to sustainable design and capacity building. From this experience, students are expected to take tools and strategies to form stronger and more sustainable community partnerships, and a partnership and training model has been established to expand asset-based engineering design techniques to the AMIGOS Engineering Track, the full Rice Engineers Without Borders organization, and other engineering students engaging in international community development.



 Caroline Brigham
Buffalo Bayou Affordability Feasibility GIS Mapping
Partner: The Buffalo Bayou Partnership

The Buffalo Bayou Partnership is creating and implementing a Masterplan along the Bayou’s East Sector. Integrated affordable housing is a key component in envisioning an expanding, dynamic water-oriented community which is inclusive and livable. New diverse housing neighborhoods can achieve medium density in compact site-conserving plans. Moreover, models of subsidized housing units can be integrated into, and indistinguishable from, market rate residential units. The Buffalo Bayou Partnership works with partner organizations to foster and create accessibility in the Downtown and East Sector. One way that they are currently doing this is by converting sheds and warehouses (including abandoned schools, clubs, and churches) to serve residential, business, technical, cultural and scientific activities. I will work with the Buffalo Bayou Partnership to identify where sites in the east sector, and analyze the composition (income, race/ethnicity, etc.) of people currently living in available housing, and finally provide recommendations for where more affordable housing can be integrated and what types of integrated affordable housing models may work best for this area. This analysis will be in the form of GIS data analysis of current residents living within the site boundaries, followed by a list of recommended housing models for this site. Based on successful models, these recommendations will help the Buffalo Bayou Partnership and its collaborating partners to plan and implement an integrated housing plan which strengthens access to existing resources as part of their Vision 2022.

Misha Carthen
PAIR Hype Project
Partner: Partnership for the Advancement and Immersion of Refugees (PAIR)

The PAIR Hype Project is a sustainable, student-led research documentary that advocates on behalf of Houston’s refugee community. A team of seven students met throughout the fall and spring semester to design innovative research questions pertaining to the challenges and triumphs of the refugee community, collaborate with university professors and resettlement agencies, and envision a plan to create a documentary series that would educate about the current situation of United States refugees in this political and social milieu. By the end of the Fall semester, the team secured generous funding for this project through the Rich Endowment and reached out to multiple entities to plan out the process of interviewing; by the end of the Spring semester, a full twenty minute video with the guiding question: “Who is a refugee?” was created, as well as a PAIR volunteer testimonial video. The team wrote out their script for at least two videos in the years following, developed a guidebook for the documentary process for future students, prepared a final video screening available for the entirety of the Rice campus, posted their videos on the PAIR website, and chose their leaders to continue this project into the following year. 

Madhuri Venkateswar
STEM Education Workshops for Girls
Partner: Girl’s Inc.

Research shows that women tend to be unprepared for engineering because they lack spatial visualization skills that men tend to be socialized to learn from sports and other hands-on activities. Therefore, for the CCL Capstone, I worked with Girl’s Inc to implement spatial visualization workshops for its students in order to increase their exposure to building, prototyping, and design. I held a series of four workshops with second-third grade girls at a local elementary school, engaging them in building with materials ranging from packing peanuts all the way to legos. In order to track the efficacy of the workshops, I did a pre and post survey to assess the girl’s attitudes towards engineering and science. The surveys indicated that the workshops increased girl’s perceptions of their own engineering skills and interest in pursuing engineering as a career. The first deliverable to the community partner was a workbook of activities, tailored to either 7- 10 year olds or 11-15 year olds. The activities included list of supplies, instructions, and debriefing questions. The second deliverable was a training session with the Girl’s Inc facilitators so they could effectively implement the workshops without needing any outside support. The third deliverable was a staple set of supplies that the girls could use to build spatial skills.



 Saheba Bhatnagar
Girls for Leadership in Engineering Program
Partner: Society for Women Engineers, Houston

The Center for Civic Leadership Capstone program partnered with the Society of Women Engineers and Young Women’s College Preparatory Academy (YWCPA) to implement an after-school outreach program called the Girls for Leadership in Engineering (GLE) program. 6 middle-school girl students participated in a total of 3 sessions in problem-centered activities to learn about following topics: electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and computer science. Through experiential learning, students worked together to complete engineering projects and gained exposure to different engineering disciplines. Based on an assessment survey administered to all program participants before and after the program, the program participants reported an increase in self-confidence and interest in STEM fields, especially engineering.


Reilly Brooks
Capacity Building for SEHTA and OST/SU GO Neighborhood
Partner: Southeast Houston Transformation Alliance (SEHTA)

The purpose of this capstone is to build the capacity of the Southeast Houston Transformation Alliance (SEHTA) for SEHTA to be a self-sufficient, independent organization. Capacity building for SEHTA means investing in the effectiveness and future sustainability of the organization through creating a form of governance, institutional structure, financial system, and stronger identity within the community and beyond. Currently, SEHTA lacks a clear identity and set of objectives complementary to, but different from, Go Neighborhoods. Through meeting with stakeholders and workshopping with community members, we identified SEHTA’s purpose and importance to become a self-sustaining organization. We determined SEHTA’s organizational challenges, values, and opportunities for immediate growth. Moving forward, we are working towards solidifying a dedicated Board of Directors and drafting a strategic vision and organizational business plan. As a result, this capstone set the foundation for SEHTA’s evolution to become a viable, self-sustaining non-profit.


Kristina Dickman
Evaluation of Peer-to-Peer Learning Program
Partner: National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Greater Houston

Mental illness places a great burden on the individual suffering, their family, and society at large. For many people in our society, help resources are confusing and hard to access. The National Alliance on Mental Illness Greater Houston focuses on easing the burden of mental illness for all individuals in the Houston area. Their education course, Peer-to-Peer Learning Program, works to build knowledge and capacity in individuals with mental illness such that they can become advocates for their own mental health and recovery. Up until this point, no quantitative evaluation metric existed. The present study utilizes three metrics for hope, disease insight, and resource knowledge gained to design a longitudinal manner of evaluating the program’s goals and success. The survey communicated, which is still undergoing, was administered at three time points and offers a comprehensive view at the impact of this education course on its 9 current participants. The study results thus far indicate significant increase in resource knowledge and disease insight as a result of the NAMI Peer to Peer Learning Program. This evaluation metric will support NAMI Greater Houston in identifying their successes and areas for improvement.


Dilo Dube
“Say Yes!” Toolkit Project Proposal
Partner: The City of Houston’s Housing and Community Development Department (HCDD)

For my capstone project I was able to partner with the City of Houston’s Housing and Community Development Department and assist with their “Say Yes!” campaign. The campaign is an educational and awareness initiative to encourage the development of quality homes for all incomes in all areas especially in light of Houston’s affordable housing crisis. I was tasked with working on a toolkit that contained information and means to engage learners on the issue. Due to time constraints and unforeseen issues, we were not able to complete the a final draft and test the toolkit as was originally planned but the resulting draft contains a strong step forward for the campaign.


Corrinne Dunbar
Process Evaluation: Social Needs Screening Program Pilot
Partner: Legacy Health

Social determinants of health (SDH), health-related factors of lifestyle that affect the environments in which we live and work, have an immense impact on the overall well-being of individuals and communities. Given this influence, there has been recent interest among healthcare institutions of how to best identify and address the nonmedical social needs of their patients. Legacy Community Health is trailing an innovative intervention to connect patients with unmet social needs to community agencies who can assist in meeting those needs. This volunteer-based system utilizes student Health Advocates to identify relevant resources and assist patients in navigating the receipt of these social services. Legacy is piloting this program before expanding the screening process to additional clinic sites. Here, the results of a mixed methods investigation of the initial implementation of the screening program are described. This process evaluation analyzed data from 1055 patient charts and sought feedback from 47 interns, providers, and clinic staff to inform recommendations to how the screening program can be better integrated into the clinic environment and capture a greater number of patients. Ultimately, this study provided critical evidence to advise alterations to Legacy’s screening model to ensure its successful continuation and expansion.


Evan Flack 
Creation of Control Group for Evaluation of the Houston Food Bank’s “Cooking Matters” Program
Partner: Houston Food Bank

This document outlines the design and implementation processes, along with the results and reflections from my Certificate in Civic Leadership project completed with the Houston Food Bank (HFB) nutrition education department. I completed a study of the nutritional habits of low income, primarily immigrant families in Houston, TX as part of HFB’s evaluation of its Cooking Matters (CM) course. HFB began evaluation of CM in the Fall 2017 semester by collection grocery store receipts and nutrition-surveys from participants. My project adds to the evaluation by collecting the same data from a comparison group of parents that have not taken CM. At the time of this report 39 individuals across 4 study locations, have participated in the control group study by submitting receipts/surreys and then receiving an incentive item. An additional 20-30 individuals are expected to participate by the project’s completion on May 10.


Sara Meadow
Recommendations for Houston Food Bank’s Food for Change Department
Partner: Houston Food Bank

Food insecurity is a complex and pervasive issue that impacts many American families. Although tradition approaches to hunger and food insecurity tend to work on the meeting the supply side of the issue, recent and innovative approaches to food insecurity understand that food insecurity is often a symptom of many other issues in a person’s life. As a result, nonprofits in the food insecurity sphere have recently begun taking more holistic approaches to food insecurity. Food for Change, a department within the Houston Food Bank, is one organization that is taking such an approach. By creating partnerships with nonprofits in different sectors, such as education, health, and housing, Food for Change seeks to address pervasive social issues through food-based interventions that seek to reduce the long-term demand for Food Bank services. Due to the unique importance of partners to the Food for Change department, my project focused specifically on improving the partnerships for the “housing” section of FFC. By breaking my project into three key phases – research, assessment, and recommendations – I was able to provide concrete recommendations to FFC that aim to improve the functionality and effectiveness of the program


Isabel Milton
Project Managing for GEO1X: a collaborative SSI, CCL, SLB STEM engagement program
Partners: Schlumberger SLB Excellence in Education Development (SEED), Rice University Student Success Initiative and Center for Civic Leadership

GEO 1X is a joint initiative of the Center for Civic Leadership, Student Success Initiatives (SSI), the Schlumberger Excellence in Education Development Program, and the Ministry of Education of Ecuador to provide first generation and/or low-income students an introductory international experience focused on STEM outreach. The inaugural GEO 1X occurred in El Coca, Ecuador, over Spring Break (March 9 - March 18, 2018), when six selected Rice students executed robotics workshops with both students and professors from the surrounding region of El Coca, Ecuador. These workshops involved VEX IQ robotics, auxiliary STEM presentations and activities, and energy education workshops. VEX IQ was the chose pedagogical platform for the STEM workshops. The goal of these workshops in country was that the participants would get both instruction in this new robotics platform and exposure to other pedagogical STEM tools. The Rice students were the primary facilitators for the robotics workshops. The Rice team also presented on special STEM concepts and interdisciplinary activities that they are involved in, including research, engineering design projects, and passion areas that intersect with STEM. The American Geological Institute (AGI) conducted concurrent energy education workshops for teachers and students Qualitative analysis was performed on semi-structured interviews with students to measure student development and comprehension of key topics in civic service and corporate social responsibility. Students were also evaluated through written reflections throughout the preparation period for the trip. This information influenced a best practices implementation toolkit for future programs.


Marjada Tucker
Organizing and Hosting the 2018 Education Summit with HISD Stakeholders for Education Reform
Partner: Children at Risk

The 2018 Education Summit serves to directly engage education stakeholders and advocates at all levels in a collaborative discussion for improvement while equipping and empower students to take the lead. With the synergic efforts of Rice faculty and students and the Children at Risk Foundation, this multifaceted experience is designed to positively shift attitudes and actions concerning advocacy. The summit will feature statistical data presentations, an Oratory contest featuring local students from the Houston Independent School District, and an interactive roundtable discussion of polarizing topics surrounding equity in education in Greater Houston. Twenty areas schools have opted to participate in addition to several politicians, community partners, educators, area students, and School Board Officials.