Welcome to the Lauder Institute Capstone

How It Works

All Lauder students fulfill the M.A. research and writing requirement by completing a capstone course in Fall of their second year and a solo-authored paper (30-35 pages) in the Spring of their second year.

The Capstone is the vehicle through which each Lauder student is expected to demonstrate the ability to conduct master’s degree level research in the social sciences or humanities, and often on cutting edge topics of interest to policymakers, non-government organizations, and the business community. Students select their paper topics and illustrate mastery of their program of concentration through their use of target language, intercultural awareness, and comparative research. We have a dedicated faculty member who oversees the Capstone, including student training, design of student milestones, student performance, and faculty advisor recruiting.

Capstone Timeline

In their first year at Lauder, students immerse in learning, in order to gain exposure to new ideas and conceptual frameworks, as well as engage Penn faculty who may serve as research advisors. By the end of Year 1, students should be thinking of research topics for their capstone papers. In Fall of Year 2, students enroll in a mandatory INTS capstone seminar, with training in comparative analysis and research design. While enrolled in the Capstone seminar, each student works with a primary faculty advisor to finalize their research design. Faculty advisors also assess and advise on matters of research scope, methodology, and feasibility. Students with faculty advisor-approved research proposals are eligible for a research stipend in support of their capstone paper field research, which typically takes place during Fall, Thanksgiving or Winter breaks. Students also receive advising support from a second reader from the Lauder faculty. During spring of their second year, students write and submit their final capstone papers.

The Language Component

The Capstone also provides students with a venue to demonstrate competency in their target language, for example, by designing surveys, conducting interviews, or using primary and secondary data in their target language. Past students studying Chinese, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish, for example, worked to investigate the intercultural aspects of changing consumer patterns in Latin America, Russia, and China. Other Lauder students have made use of their language skills to explore the drivers of entrepreneurial ecosystems, the success of public health policies, and even the intersection between social norms and socially acceptable forms of humor around the world.

Faculty Advisors

Faculty advisors are drawn from across the university, with each student having a primary advisor and a second reader from among the Lauder faculty. Advisors are paired with students early in their third semester and meet regularly with students to monitor their progress and to suggest bibliographic and other resources needed to deepen student knowledge. They help students define questions and research methodologies and select appropriate research sites and interviewees for the research trips.

Research Topics

Student research topics are wide-ranging, but broadly fall into the following categories: Culture & Consumption, Comparative Corporate Governance, Entrepreneurship & Economic Development, The Comparative Politics of Gender, Race & Sexual Orientation, Global Small Business Development, Global Supply Chains Industrial Policy and Geopolitical Competition, Informal Economies and Economic Development, New Energy and the Environment, New Tech Start-ups, Patterns of Foreign Direct Investment, Social and Economic Inequality, and Trade & Development.

Faculty advisors nominate the very highest quality papers for the Lauder Institute’s Reginald H. Jones Research Prize. Nominated papers are blind-reviewed by a committee representative of faculty from the Wharton School and the School of Arts and Sciences.

Research Locations

Student research projects have taken place in the following locations:  Angola, Argentina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei, Chile, China, Colombia, Cuba, Easter Island, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, France, Germany, Honduras, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Liberia, Madagascar, Malta, Mexico, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Netherlands, New Caledonia, Nicaragua, North Korea, Oman, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Russia, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Tahiti, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam

Capstone Photo Contest

Learn more and see winning photos here.

Capstone Prizewinners 2023

Winner: Angela Huang, Cultural Ambassadors or Invaders? Understanding the Divergent Success of K-Pop and J-Pop in the Post-2000s Chinese Fan Market, Advisors: Dr. Jacques Delisle and Dr. Regina Abrami


First Runner-Up: Hannah Sherman, Riding the Green Wave: The Role of Social Movements, Political Institutions, and The Catholic Church in Abortion Decriminalization in Argentina and Colombia, Advisors: Dr. Lynsey Farrell and Dr. Eileen Doherty-Sil


Second Runner-Up: Shashank Singh, The Missing Middle? Exploring the Reasons Behind the Low Employment Share Within Medium-Sized Enterprises in the Indian Manufacturing Sector Since India’s Liberalization in 1991Advisors: Dr. Ecaterina Locoman and Dr. Janet Chrzan

Complete list of Prizewinners.

Student Research Snapshot

Angela Huang (G’23, WG’23), winner of the Reginald H. Jones Research Prize, talks with Penn Today about her capstone research which investigates the increasing internationalization of Japanese and Korean pop music. Click the picture below to learn more:

Contact Us

Dr. Ecaterina Locoman

Senior Lecturer, Political Science
Faculty Lead, Capstone Research
The Lauder Institute