The Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) launched its first-ever Student Simulation Competition early this year. It involved a simulation to imitate a current policy problem facing local, state and federal legislatures, and students had to apply skills they learned in the classroom and consider a variety of intervention tactics, stakeholder needs and financial models when devising a solution.
Students from schools across the United States were selected to compete at 6 regional sites. MPA student Johanna Jamison, who is interested in community-based health, was selected from SPA and traveled to Los Angeles for the regional competition that took place on Feb. 28, 2015.
About a week prior to the competition, students were randomly selected to form teams of 4 members. Johanna’s team included members from U.S.C., California State University, Los Angeles, and the Pardee RAND Graduate School.
“Our team members came from very diverse backgrounds: one was originally from Iran and had a water resources engineering background, another worked as an IT support professional, and the third was pursuing a Ph.D. at RAND,” says Johanna. “But we worked very well together and made a great team.”
The day-long competition involved a simulation where the 10 teams were tasked with implementing the Affordable Care Act in a fictional municipality. They employed software that is actually used by municipalities to help assess the impact of interventions on various stakeholder groups. The simulation was divided into 4 separate tasks, with a specific amount of time devoted to each task. At each step of the process the teams tried to find ways to increase their score for the task by reworking the simulation. The 3 judges for the competition visited teams throughout the process and provided feedback and input on the specific task the team was addressing.
The final step in the competition involved putting the team’s recommendation into a package and presenting it to the judges and their peers. Johanna’s team, the West’s Best Wonks, was selected as the winner of the regional competition!
“The competition involved a very timely and important topic, and my team interacted really well together,” says Johanna. “This was an awesome experience for me in so many ways and I appreciate that it was made possible by SPA!”