UOG student wins international public administration competition simulating a pandemic

Renee Carpela, now a Master of Public Administration student, holds her undergraduate public administration degree for commencement in 2020. (Photo courtesy of Renee Carpela)

Renee Carpela, a first-year Master of Public Administration student at the University of Guam, and her team of four other students from around the world were named champions of an international competition simulating a deadly infectious disease outbreak.

The annual 2021 NASPAA-Batten Student Simulation Competition challenges graduate students in public policy–related fields to test their leadership, negotiation, and critical thinking skills in a time-sensitive, fast-paced scenario using real-world data.

More than 400 students from 120 universities in 30 countries competed in the virtual competition.

Carpela’s team took first place in their regional competition on March 6 and then competed again in the Global All-Star Round on April 16, taking first place out of four teams.

“The experience was intense and rewarding,” Carpela said. “Although the day of the competition was nerve-racking, I knew that my team would be able to deliver a great response to the simulation.”

The teams were tasked with creating a policy memo and presentation based on this year’s topic, “The Pandemic Game 2.0.” They were evaluated on teamwork, organization, decision making, and their policy presentations.

“Renee and her team excelled during both the simulation-navigation and debate phases […] and ended up outperforming the other top teams in both categories,” said Supriya Golas, simulation education director for the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration.

Golas added, “Simulation-based learning is incredibly valuable, as it applies theory to practice and goes beyond conventional modes of learning. Through these simulations, students can take what they’ve learned in the classrooms and apply it to simulated real-world experiences. We hope these tools will prepare students for the next major global event, whether it’s a pandemic or climate crisis.”

Carpela said her team — graduate students from China, Bangladesh, and New Zealand — worked well together because they were able to respect each other’s expertise, understand their strengths, and effectively communicate with one another.

“The biggest impression [on me] was knowing that people who come from different backgrounds and governmental structures were able to work toward a common goal with an ultimate understanding of how our policies would affect the people of our simulated country,” Carpela said.

As part of the winning team, Carpela will receive $1,100, a certificate, and a letter of recommendation.

Carpela said she looks forward to continuing her public service and a career where she can create policies that will work for Guam and the people who need them.

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.

(UOG Release)