NASPAA-Batten Student Simulation Competition Student Reflection

Yahe Li, MPPGA Student

Team members of Oneville at the Pepperdine University competition site. From left to right: Joseph Bettles (University of California), Benton Shoenwald (University of San Francisco), Claudia Castro (Universidad Iberoamericana Ciudad), Yahe Li (Univeristy of British Columbia)

The NASPAA-Batten Simulation Competition is a competition organized by NASPAA (the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration) and the University of Virginia Frank Batten Public Policy School. I chose to compete at the Pepperdine University site in Malibu on March 7, 2020, but the competition was hosted at eight different universities across North America, Asia, and Europe. The competition itself was based on running a simulation of a city as team of five, with each team member playing the role of a city commissioner in charge of wellbeing, transportation, health, infrastructure, or as the mayor. The team I was assigned to, the city of One-ville, had three students from California, one from Mexico, and myself (from UBC’s very own MPPGA program).

In order to prepare for the competition, each competitor read through a 60-page policy dictionary and player manual. Despite our preparation, the actual competition was completely different from what I had expected. Within the simulation, city commissioners could make decisions on a variety of different policies such as: road width, number of neighbourhood trees, zoning mix, and the number of busses and train routes. Through my participation in this competition, I learned a whole set of policy vocabulary and gained two major insights into public policy decision-making.

Opening remarks delivered by Pete Peterson, Dean of the School of Public Policy at Pepperdine

Firstly, policy choices interact in unexpected ways. The simulation forced competitors to consider the policies they implemented in holistic ways. For example, we could implement policies to improve traffic flow (a desired outcome) but improving traffic flow too much would increase the number of people driving (an undesired outcome). Secondly, engaging the local community is important for policy makers. Within the simulation, the “currency” used to implement policy was community engagement credits, which we gained from running engagement activities. The simulation was designed to show the competitors that keeping good faith with the local community was the most effective way of running a city.

Not only was the simulation itself challenging, but we were also randomly assigned to teammates from diverse backgrounds. Our team, One-ville, ended up placing third out of the nine teams at the Pepperdine University site which I am proud of because each of the competitors worked hard that day.

Presentation of results from our run of the simulation

I am grateful to the MPPGA program for giving me the opportunity to represent UBC at the NASPAA-Batten competition because I certainly could not have attended without the support of the program team. Overall, the NASPAA-Batten simulation competition was a very worthwhile experience, and I would recommend MPPGA students attend in the future. If any MPPGA students are interested in attending next year, then feel free to reach out to me and I can answer your questions!

Oneville team members