Apr 5, 2018
Lisa Jervey Lennox, CIPA Assistant Director for External Relations & Communications
In Cornell Institute for Public Affairs

On March 3, CIPA organized and acted as one of 16 international host sites for the 2018 NASPAA-Batten Student Simulation Competition. The program is an experiential learning opportunity for graduate students in public administration.

The competition calls for students to gather at university sites around the globe on one of two given dates and compete in a one-day immersive simulation of a public policy challenge; this year, the topic was a pandemic. The Cornell site hosted 31 public policy students from a higher education programs in the northeastern United States.

Students in an auditorium waiting for the Pandemic simulation to begin

During the simulation, students played roles that public administration leaders would have to fill should there be an outbreak of a deadly infectious disease. Students worked within the confines of governing bodies to reassess the rules and institutions that govern health policy, public safety, economics, and leadership at the subnational, national, regional, and global levels.

“Competitions like this one take students out of the classroom and pit them against students from other top schools,” said CIPA lecturer Rebecca Brenner, who oversaw the logistics for the Cornell simulation site. “They are pushed to their limits, as they will be in real life, with the intensity of the challenge driving new ideas and innovation.”

“They learn things they cannot in the classroom such as how to build traction and consensus for an idea,” she said. “This is practice for the real-world competition that awaits them in their careers, as they work to implement change for a more sustainable global community.”

A group of four students gathered around a table with one motioning toward a white board

NASPAA – the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration – is the membership organization of graduate education programs in public policy, public affairs, public administration, and public and nonprofit management. The organization sponsors competitions to support public service education and training.

It’s an honor to host a competition like this one, said CIPA Executive Director, Thomas O’Toole. “I also want to express my sincere thanks to Rebecca for submitting a strong proposal to NASPAA,” he said.

The competition fit with the College’s mission for educating students, said Alan Mathios, Rebecca Q. and James C. Morgan Dean of the College of Human Ecology.

“I’m really excited that NASPAA has chosen Cornell and the College of Human Ecology to help host this competition,” he said. “The mission statement of Human Ecology is improving lives by exploring and shaping human connections to natural, social, and built environments, and that mission statement is so, so connected with this issue of pandemics. It’s just a natural fit for us to be focused on that.”

During the competition, student teams identified potential solutions and prepared strategy recommendations to present to judges. Students described the competition as an exciting and eye-opening experience that they will inform their professional lives.

Group of three female students working together to solve a pandemic crisis simulation on their laptops

“The NASPAA-Batten Student Simulation Competition was a unique and unforgettable experience,” said Sarah Cartagena MPA ’19 who participated in the simulation. “It exposed me to the complexities of real life crisis situations and allowed me to visualize the impact that political decisions can have in the life of real people.”

“Most importantly, this competition taught me the importance of teamwork and patience in unpredictable situations. After completing this simulation, I now feel better prepared to tackle real-life policy issues,” she said.

This year’s winners, which included five CIPA students, were Nida Mahmud MPA ’19, Joe VerValin MPA ’18, Bethany Lauren Jones MPA ’19 and Muhammad Saad Arshad (Syracuse) from Team World One, and Sarah Cartagena MPA ’19, Rafia Farooqui MPA ‘18 and Jessica DePasquale (Buffalo State) from Team World Two. Winners at each site move on to compete against each other for the overall top award.

This Simulation Competition was first designed by NASPAA in 2015 to support and encourage more experiential learning in the classroom, especially in the realm of public policy and administration education.  In 2016, NASPAA announced a five-year affiliation agreement to partner with the University of Virginia Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy for its Student Simulation Competition.

Group photo of Cornell participants for NASPAA Batten Simulation