UND MPA Student Places First at NASPAA Simulation, New York Site Location


Erin Gilbertson

Document Type

News Article

Publication Date


Campus Unit

College of Business & Public Administration


University of North Dakota Master of Public Administration (MPA) student Nick Jensen took home first place at the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) Student Simulation Competition held at Columbia University in New York on February 25, 2017. In addition, Nick’s team was the runner-up in the worldwide competition.

NASPAA is the accrediting body for UND’s MPA program. Each year, NASPAA hosts a global simulation which takes place at five locations in the U.S. and three locations internationally. Each simulation focuses on a theme relating to public policy. This year, the simulation focused on policy surrounding food security, which includes ensuring there is enough food produced worldwide, that the food produced is accessible to everyone, and that the food has the right level of nutrition to promote health.

“As my wife joked, we had 12 hours to solve world hunger,” said Jensen.

UND sends one to two students to the simulation each year. Participating at the New York location gave Jensen the opportunity to compete against students from top tier MPA programs such as Harvard, Princeton, and Columbia.

To prepare for the simulation, Jensen reviewed United Nation (UN) and other food security books and reports on the subject. Participants also had the opportunity to network with current UN policy workers, U.S. trade negotiators, think tank scholars, and leading academics to gain understanding in the complexities surrounding food security.

For the competition, students were assigned to teams of sixteen and within that team, a four-person group to focus on a specific region. Nick was elected to lead his group, which was assigned to focus on the Southeastern Asian countries of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Each group was given a strict budget, several GDP indicators, and 12-18 policies with varying impacts and costs to choose from. Nick was able to draw on his MPA experience, such as Dr. Urlacher’s Research Methods class (POLS 500) to create a computer model comparing each of the policies and their impacts.

“Courses from poverty policy, budgeting, policy analysis and comparison, government and business, and others served me well,” Jensen said.

During the eight hours of competition, teams were able to simulate 20 years of policy impact, which included externalities such as severe weather and flooding. At the end of this simulation, teams presented a program to deliver food security focusing on health, environmental, and agriculture policy.

“As a proud grandson of a North Dakota farmer, I was happy to develop and present the agricultural policy for our team of 16,” said Jensen.

In the end, Jensen’s team placed first in the simulation at the Columbia site and his group of four were selected as MVPs. This competition is just one example of the experiential learning opportunities provided to MPA students to expand their knowledge and skills relevant to their degree program.