Voinovich students tackle health policy in NASPAA student competition

Emily Bamforth
March 25, 2015

NASPAA1(Right, bottom) Maggie Clark, first-year MPA student, works with her team during the NASPAA student competition. (Right, bottom) First-year MPA student Bryttani Barker poses for a photo with her team. The compeition took place at the end of February.

The last weekend of February, two students from the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs at Ohio University packed their bags and headed to Indianapolis, with no idea what was in store. All they knew was that they would tackle an issue of public policy in a simulation, in collaboration with team members from all over the region.


NASPAA3Maggie Clark and Bryttani Barker, both first-year students in the master of public administration program, participated in the first-ever student competition sponsored by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration (NASPAA).  About 181 students from 93 schools in the U.S. participated in the event, split into different regions.


Before the all-day event, participants had the opportunity to study materials and practice using the computer-based simulator, as well as connect with their teammates.

“Regardless of the policy, you have to have the same underlying skills,” Clark said.

The simulation required students to transform the health policy in a city. The first part of the simulation was spent entering metrics based on different variables into a simulator, which would run them and put out a score that would make up half of the team’s overall score. The second half of judging was based on logic, teamwork and the presentations each team had to make.

Collaboration was key in reaching a conclusion of how to tackle a bottom-up approach to health policy, Barker said. The groups not only had to focus on making the best decision for the residents of a theoretical town, but also take into account the thoughts of stakeholders and the amount of money that was going to be spent overhauling the policy.

“You got to work with other people with different strengths,” she said. “In the real world you’re not going to be working with people with the same political views and values as you.” Neither Barker’s nor Clark’s teams made it into the top three in the region, but both said the experience was invaluable.

Barker, who is interested in affecting domestic violence policy change, said the competition provided practical knowledge.

“Not all the stakeholders are going to be pleased, so how do you sell your product?” she said. “You’re going to run into something, even though you had planned. You have to stay calm, regroup and move forward.”

Clark said the experiences she’s had at the Voinovich School were essential to participating in the competition, and that the forward-thinking way of simulating policy decisions was something she’d encountered in class before.

“It’s reassuring to come back and find what we’re doing is so valuable,” she said.

 Clark said the competition, in addition to being a learning experience, allowed her an opportunity to network.

“It was cool to share what I love about Voinovich,” she added. 

Photos via Bryttani Barker and Maggie Clark