Villanova MPA Team Wins Global Public Policy Competition

Villanova University served as one of 11 host sites for the international event, which focused on issues surrounding forced migration

Five students in Villanova University’s Master of Public Administration program formed the winning team in the global 2019 NASPAA-Batten Student Simulation Competition

VILLANOVA, Pa. – Five students in Villanova University’s Master of Public Administration program formed the winning team in the global 2019 NASPAA-Batten Student Simulation Competition—the largest-ever student simulation competition in higher education.

Villanova served as one of 11 global host sites and hosted more than 40 graduate students from 11 universities for the regional competition on February 23. The Villanova team took first place in that event and moved on as one of 13 final teams to the global competition. On March 22, a panel of “super judges” then declared Villanova the global winner based on simulation scores, negotiation skills and policy presentations. The Villanova team took home $5,000 USD in prize money.

The judges lauded the Villanova team for "its unique applicability of a public service perspective to policy and decision making. This team devised an exceptional communications strategy and campaign messaging, and focused on the humanitarian nature of the refugee crisis."

“It is such an honor for the Villanova MPA team to come in first place for the 2019 NASPAA-Batten Student Simulation Competition among so many outstanding programs throughout the world,” said Catherine Wilson, PhD, Associate Professor and Chair of Public Administration. “It is also humbling given the high caliber of graduate students participating in the competition.”

This year’s competition connected a record 585 students from 27 countries to tackle policy issues associated with forced migration through computer-based simulated gameplay.

The event 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 (CLSG) 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.

Villanova MPA student Morgana Falabella noted that at the outset of the competition, the team decided to be as humanitarian as possible in crafting its public policies, and to apply a public service perspective to policy and decision making. “Villanova’s high quality MPA program prepared us to be ethical and insightful public administrators, with the right dose of theory and practice,” she said. “This win means that the MPA program is on the right track in developing leaders knowledgeable in theory and, most importantly, ready to practice.”

“We are incredibly proud of the students who competed in this global event,” added Dr. Wilson. “The simulation topic – global migration – enabled our students to connect both their passion for and the practice of public service to this timely and relevant issue. The team-based nature of the simulation also added an important element of collaborative decision-making, something that we prize in our MPA program.”

The members of the winning Villanova team are: Morgana Falabella, Tolulope Omodara, Fatima Rezaei, Nicholas Valla and Tyler Walls.

The teams competed using Host Nations: A Refugee Simulation, a web-based experiential learning tool for public policy students. Taking on roles such as Prime Minister, Minister of Labor or Minister of Health and Human Services, players work in teams to manage a migrant influx. Each player is in charge of a distinct policy portfolio and the decisions they make affect not only their own country but the other teams’ countries as well. The game challenges participants to weigh human rights, integration and GDP growth against budget restrictions and political resistance.

“Those who participated in this competition should be commended for the many skills that they exhibited throughout the day– teamwork, negotiation skills, decision making, data analysis and technological savviness,” said Dr. Wilson. “I was incredibly impressed at the seriousness with which participants engaged in the competition and the respect and consideration they exhibited towards their team members and other teams throughout the day. It was a privilege for me to be part of the day.”

In addition to the Villanova team, students from Bowie State University, Cornell University, Delaware Valley University, Penn State University-Harrisburg, Roger Williams University, University of Baltimore, University of Maryland-Baltimore County, University of Pennsylvania, West Chester University and West Virginia University participated at the Villanova site.

This is the fifth year NASPAA has conducted the student competition and third year partnering with CLSG to produce the simulation. Thousands of students from NASPAA’s global network have participated in the competitions which each year examine a different multifaceted policy issue.

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 U.S. 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.

About the CLSG: The University of Virginia’s Center for Leadership Simulation and Gaming at the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy prepares students for public life by allowing them to test real-world solutions in a virtual environment. The CLSG designs, develops and implements cutting edge simulations and experiments to advance education in leadership and public policy; conducts rigorous leadership and public policy research using simulations and experiments; and creates a community of scholarship where faculty, researchers and students are supported in their scholarly efforts related to the methodology of simulations and experiments.

About Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences: Since its founding in 1842, Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has cultivated knowledge, understanding and intellectual courage for a purposeful life in a challenged and changing world. With 39 majors across the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences, it is the oldest and largest of Villanova’s colleges, serving more than 4,500 undergraduate and graduate students each year. The College is committed to a teacher-scholar model, offering outstanding undergraduate and graduate research opportunities and a rigorous core curriculum that prepares students to become critical thinkers, strong communicators and ethical leaders with a truly global perspective.