Public affairs students from ASU and other schools win regional round of global simulation competition

The task? Stop an infectious disease from spreading throughout a four-country fictitious world. And do so in limited time with teammates you’ve just met. Welcome to the 2018 NASPAA-Batten Student Simulation Competition. Arizona State University’s School of Public Affairs hosted a regional round of the competition Saturday, February 24.

“In many ways its like real-life problem solving because they are going to be thrown into situations with people who they don’t know what skill set they have and they’ve got to trust each other and work together,” said Shawn Novak, associate director of the ASU School of Public Affairs and coordinator of the regional competition.

In its fourth year, the global competition takes place over two weekends on 19 college campuses in North America, South America, Europe, Africa and Asia. A total of 117 teams representing 27 countries and 159 universities are competing.

The competition is coordinated by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration or NASPAA, an association representing 300 schools in 24 nations. The University of Virginia’s Center for Leadership Simulation and Gaming at the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy sponsors the event and this year is awarding cash prizes to first and second place teams.

NASPAA team preps for competition at ASU regional site.

Students from different universities worked in teams of four or five to formulate policy options for the NASPAA-Batten Simulation Competition.

“We are thrilled to launch this data-driven tool to provide the next generation of policymakers with realistic, experiential and fun learning environments,” said Noah Myung, director of the Center for Leadership Simulation and Gaming. “State-of-the-art simulations like this one accelerate students’ ability to make an instant impact—both in leadership positions and team settings—when they enter the workforce.”

The winning team from the ASU regional round was comprised of students from five schools: Becca McCarthy of Arizona State University; Breck Wightman of Brigham Young University; Victoria Laskey of the University of Colorado, Denver; Benjamin Bass of the University of Southern Utah and Hayden English from the University of Texas, Austin. A total of 36 students from 11 universities competed at the event, including seven from ASU.

“I was teamed with a diverse group of students focusing on public health, administration, policy, and analytics,” said ASU’s McCarthy. “Each member of the team brought new insights and skills to the table.”

Student teams represented one of four countries and each team member assumed the position of a high-ranking official such as Prime Minister or Minister of Health. Teams were evaluated on simulation scores, negotiation skills, and presentations made to regional site judges.

“They had to sort it all out during the competition and agree who is going to do what and what their strengths and weaknesses were and they did an excellent job of doing that,” Novak said.

Winners from the 19 regional competitions will be judged by a panel of experts. A team that competed at the Universidad de Los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia regional site won last year's NASPAA-Batten Simulation Competition.