Experiential Learning


MSISPM is a professional degree program. And we believe a professional master’s degree should incorporate practical application of skills as a major component of the graduate school experience. MSISPM students blend their classroom experience with real world application of their skills, while they are in school by:

  • engaging in leading edge research assistantships with our renowned faculty
  • completing a comprehensive team-based project for an actual client
  • writing a thesis on research-related topics under the guidance of a faculty member
  • required 10-week full-time internship over the summer
  • working on a part-time basis during the school year

Students can leverage a series of opportunities to optimize their graduate school experience, providing them with a competitive advantage in the job market upon graduation.

During the School Year

There are a variety of positions, both on- and off-campus for students to pursue.


  • In their final two semesters at Heinz, MISM students can work as Teaching Assistants for courses at Heinz College related to their career goals.

In the Region: U.S. citizens enrolled in the MSISPM program are able to work part-time (10-12 hours per week) for off-campus organizations while attending school on a full-time basis. Working in the community enables students to put their skills into practice AND have a lasting impact on our community, while enhancing their resume. Eligible US citizens who work for public and non-profit organizations are often eligible to be paid through the Federal Community Service Work Study program.

Summer Internships

MSISPM students are required to complete a summer internship between their second and third semesters. Students can intern in an organization that best matches their area of interest and career goals.

MSISPM students benefit from this internship in several ways:

  • Apply the skills learned in your first year of study.
  • Gain experience in your chosen field.
  • Decide, based on experience, whether a particular type of job really fits your career goals.
  • Make important professional contacts.
  • Build your resume.

Capstone/Systems Synthesis Projects/Master's Thesis

MSISPM students can select between a capstone project or a master's thesis option.

Capstone/System Synthesis Projects:

Impacting the region is a top priority for Heinz College. In addition to the part-time work opportunities during the school year and the summer internship, our students use their skills to make a difference through the Capstone or Systems Synthesis Project.

This course embraces four educational goals that synthesize the Heinz College experience and apply it to the analysis of complex issues:

  • Develop problem structuring and solving skills;
  • Develop project management, teamwork, and communication skills;
  • Provide a capstone experience that integrates and synthesizes core coursework;
  • Provide a real world organizational experience.

Working collaboratively with other students for a real client, you'll tackle a real issue that synthesizes your coursework in security technology, policy, economics, statistics, financial analysis, professional writing and speaking. Work is guided—and often challenged—by a faculty advisor. Your team will frame the problem, conduct the analysis, make recommendations, and present your findings.

Sample project reports:


Instead of the Information Security Project, you may opt to write a thesis. You'll work independently on research-related topics (approved by the program director) with sponsorship from a Carnegie Mellon faculty member.

Sample Thesis: