UND MPA Students Attend NASPAA Simulation


Shane Herman

Document Type

News Article

Publication Date


Campus Unit

College of Business & Public Administration


University of North Dakota Master of Public Administration (MPA) students Liam Thrailkill and Andre Unicome recently participated in the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) Student Simulation Competition held on March 3, 2018. Thrailkill, a campus MPA student, participated at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) site, while Unicome, an online MPA student, participated at the University of Washington site in Seattle.

NASPAA is the accrediting body for UND’s MPA program. According to a NASPAA Press Release, “This year’s competition connected more than 500 students from 159 universities and 27 countries through computer-based simulated game play at 15 global host sites.” Each simulation focuses on a theme relating to public policy, with this year’s theme focusing on pandemic crisis management and global health security.

UND sends up to two students to the simulation each year. Participating at the Chicago location gave Thrailkill the opportunity to compete with a team of five students from MPA programs at other universities, such as Ohio State University and University of Illinois - Springfield. “This was a really good opportunity to work with people from across the Midwest and utilize the experiences afforded to you from classes,” said Thrailkill.

To prepare for the simulation, Thrailkill said he reviewed much of the simulation information dispersed by NASPAA, but noted that many of the case details weren’t known until the day of the simulation. Teams representing four fictitious countries took the lead in identifying solutions, strategies, and potential outcomes to minimize the devastating impacts of a deadly infectious disease. Participants 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 world health epidemics. The students even heard from a health professional who worked to contain recent Ebola outbreaks.

“This is the only global simulation in public policy education I know of that brings grad students together from all different countries to address a common policy problem and learn from each other,” said NASPAA Executive Director Laurel McFarland. “Our hope is they will graduate and go out into the real world with a heightened understanding of global health insecurity and a desire to contribute to its eradication wherever they might end up working.”

Dr. Dana Harsell, Director of UND’s MPA Program and site judge for the Washington simulation, added “NASPAA simulations provide opportunities for students to bridge their coursework into simulated cultural experiences.” Harsell believes that there is a reciprocal learning relationship associated with the NASPAA simulation, students draw on their class experiences to help them solve problems at the competition and in return will gain knowledge to help them become more successful within the classroom. He hopes to soon integrate a similar simulation within the classroom setting for UND’s MPA Program.

While neither team placed in their respective competitions, they each gained valuable insights, experiences, and connections through the NASPAA simulation. “The learning experience was great with being able to better understand the needs of countries with vastly different populations and economies, as well as differing cultures and international relationships,” said Thrailkill. “I would strongly encourage anyone who receives a similar opportunity to take it.”

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. For more information about the MPA program, please contact Kate Menzies at kate.menzies@und.edu or stop by the CoBPA Graduate Programs office.