Friday, June 9, 2023
NASPAA's website image representing the wildfire simulation

Two SPPA public affairs students were selected by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) to take part in the annual policy simulation competition. The event took place at 13 US and international university sites as well as a virtual option. Jocelyn Williams participated at the University of Colorado Denver and Madison Black through NASPAA's virtual site.

This year's competition focused on a wildfire simulation utilizing each team of students' skills in communication and group decision making while incorporating wildfire mitigation planning; considerations of the diversity, equity and inclusion of all populations such as languages spoken, cultures, and economic status; communication strategy; environmental protection (water contamination and safe drinking water); and the interests and coordination of a variety of local governments, public agencies, and individuals motivated by future political aspirations.  

Most of each team's simulation details were unknown until the start of the competition, forcing them to plan and solve problems in a short and stressful time period. There was purposefully too much material from every source to utilize the information responsibly in the policy negotiations among diverse stakeholders. In addition to the ability to work quickly, one takeaway was that the skill of working well with others, including injections of humor, makes for easier teamwork during an overwhelming process.

The wildfire project included utilizing a map with territories to indicate which type of mitigation actions would be taken in which location, at which times of the year. Each action had different pros and cons for each stakeholder, and each territory had different attributes and events that would make actions either more or less equitable, effective, efficient, and economical.

Jocelyn describes the experience as, "the perfect way to practice turning theory into action while developing and building upon the public affairs skills taught in the UI School of Planning and Public Affairs. It made me a more well-rounded team player, communicator, negotiator, and presenter which enhanced my effectiveness during my MPA capstone project. The policy simulation was an awesome experience and professional practice for our future careers. I hope that as I progress into my profession, I can look back on this experience and use it as a guiding tool to help prioritize equitably driven outcomes in all of the work that I do."