VILLANOVA, Pa. - Three students in Villanova University’s online Master of Public Administration (MPA) program participated in the global 2020 NASPAA-Batten Student Simulation Competition on Sustainable Cities and Communities on March 7 at the University of Albany, with one student taking top honors as part of the winning team in the region.
Villanova students Melissa Bailey of Florence, Alabama, Rob Rosano of Charleston, West Virginia, and Kami Umbaugh of New York City took part in the regional event, with Bailey’s team taking first place and Umbaugh’s taking second. Bailey’s team now advances to the global judging round. This regional win is the second in a row for Villanova students. Last year, a team of Villanova MPA students was the global winner of the event.
The Simulation Competition is a partnership between the University of Virginia Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy and the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA). Developed by experts at the Batten School’s Center for Leadership Simulation and Gaming who utilized extensive real-world data, the simulation places students in leadership roles within a time-sensitive, fast-paced environment where they must work together to solve complex policy issues. This global event is the largest student simulation competition in higher education. This year, there were nearly 400 students from 114 universities in 46 countries at seven global sites.
This year's competition focused on leadership and policymaking at the city level to pave the way for long-term sustainability. Policy categories included: transportation infrastructure including multi-modal alternatives, land use and zoning, air quality and citizen health, fiscal accountability and budgeting, unemployment, and housing – all of which revolved around multiple citizen engagement strategies. Teams were made up of five students randomly drawn from participating universities.
Even though the Villanova participants had never met in person before the event, the judges noted how well-connected they seemed.
“Because our online classes are synchronous in nature, Melissa, Kami and Rob had interacted with one another both within and outside the classroom,” said Catherine Wilson, PhD, Associate Professor and Chair of Public Administration. “As a program, we decided to feature synchronous learning in the online classroom given the important emphasis that Villanova University places on community and community-building. As a result, our online students can get to know each other and share their wisdom and insights about their respective work in the field of public service.”
Added Bailey about her Villanova MPA experience, “Kami, Rob and I met in an online class in late 2018 and became great friends who just happened to live hundreds of miles from each other. I believe the weekly virtual class component of the Villanova MPA program makes connections like ours possible. It is perfectly normal for us to check in with each other daily. We talk about school of course, but also life, career, family – and sports, lots of sports!”
For Bailey, the chance to represent Villanova at the event overshadowed the logistical obstacles she faced. “Traveling more than 1,100 miles to the competition site, work and family obligations, as well as coursework obligations were a challenge, but I was willing to do whatever I needed to make it happen,” she said.
Bailey noted that the judges lauded her team’s decision-making process as well as how they used data to balance policy objectives with other public realities.
“My team communicated with each other extraordinarily well, and we consistently forecasted our data to inform how the policies were affecting citizens in every aspect. In the end, we achieved a really nice balance without sacrificing citizen or fiscal health. I have to believe these factors played a huge role in our selection as the regional winners,” she said.
Bailey called her NASPAA-Batten experience “the opportunity of a lifetime,” adding, “I wholeheartedly believe our experience as Villanova MPA students prepared us to apply the theories and best practices of public administration to the problems presented in the simulation and ultimately capture both first- and second-place finishes. It was truly an honor to represent our MPA program, and I am prouder than ever to be a Villanovan.”
About NASPAA: The Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration or NASPAA is the global standard in public service education. It is the membership organization of graduate education programs in public policy, public affairs, public administration, and public & nonprofit management. Its over 300 members - located across the US and in 24 countries around the globe - award MPA, MPP, MPAff, and similar degrees. NASPAA is the recognized global accreditor of master’s degree programs in these fields.