The duration of Clinic projects is one academic year, from September through May.
The process begins over the summer during a period in which the sponsor and the Clinic director finalize the organization’s commitment to sponsoring the project, and the actual details of the problem to be addressed. This generally begins with the sponsor providing a short problem statement. This is followed by one or two cycles of revision, with input from the Clinic director on the suitability of the project based on issues of student background and time allocation. It is generally during this phase that the sponsor designates a person from within the organization to operate as the liaison for the project. The Clinic director makes an initial designation of faculty supervisor for the project at the same time.
At the beginning of the fall term, the projects for that year are presented to the students taking Clinic and they express their preferences for which project they wish to work on. The faculty then meet to finalize the assignment of supervisors, form the actual teams (based on the students’ expressed preferences), and designate project managers for each team.
Clinic Orientation, to which all the liaisons are invited, is held in the first few weeks of the term. It provides an opportunity for the liaison to meet with the team and provide additional information and background on the project. After this initial meeting, the Clinic team constructs a proposal which specifies, as precisely as possible, the work to be done and the schedule on which it is to be accomplished. Once the details have been agreed upon by the sponsor and the team, problem-solving work begins. The faculty advisor assists in getting the project to a quick start, with an early aim toward increasing the student leader’s coordinating role.
We have found that it is helpful to have the team visit the sponsor’s site for a day early in the term. The students inevitably return from the visit with a better sense of the goals and purpose of the project. It is clear that they return more solidly invested in those goals. After that, ideally, the liaison meets with the team on a weekly basis, although variations of this model are possible. In the case of distant sponsors, it is typical to have a weekly conference call or video teleconference instead.
The team presents its ideas and progress to the Clinic community three times during the year, and presents its final results at the campus-wide Projects Day in the spring. Formal mid-year and final progress reports are required.