March 1, 2017

NASPAA-Batten Simulation Competition: And the Winner is...

Congratulations “Colombia and Columbia!”
A team of graduate students from South American universities (and one American university) has clinched First-Place in the NASPAA-Batten Global Student Simulation Competition conducted by NASPAA, the global association of graduate schools of public policy and administration and programmed by The Frank Batten School of Leadership & Public Policy at the University of Virginia. The team competed at Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia. The Second Place, Runner-Up team, comprised of students from east coast American universities was hosted at SIPA Columbia University in New York City.

This year’s topic was Food Security and the world-wide effort to address UN Sustainable Development Goal 2 (end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture, by 2030).

On February 25 (February 26 in China), nearly 400 graduate students in public policy and management from around the world traveled to eight university locations (Maastricht, New York City, Washington D.C. area, Indianapolis, Bogotá, Tempe, Seattle, and Beijing) to compete in a one-day immersive computer simulation that challenged them to advance global food security. Students from different schools were mixed onto teams of 16-20, where they bonded as members of staff of a fictional global non-governmental organization (NGO) committed to reduce global hunger in five world regions. They analyzed data, made policy proposals, reacted
the computer simulation results, drafted memos with recommendations, and presented their strategy recommendations to teams of local site judges.

Those sites judges selected winners from among the teams competing. The top winner at each of the eight sites then advanced to four distinguished “super judges” for an electronic review of videos and written material produced on the day of the competition. Super judges included Steve Cohen (Executive Director, Earth Institute), Josette Sheeran (former Executive Director, United Nations World Food Programme), Anand Desai (Section Head of Evaluation and Assessment, National Science Foundation), and Mahfuz Ahmed (Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department, Asian Development Bank).

David Birdsell, President of NASPAA and dean of the Marxe School of Public and International Affairs at Baruch College said, “We are delighted to recognize such fine work from student teams in Bogotá and New York. Food security is one of the world’s most pressing policy concerns; the participants have not only learned a great deal about the issues involved, but have shown the capacity to deal substantively and creatively with the problems they identified, giving us every confidence that they will go on to do outstanding work in public service.”

“World leaders often don’t get a ‘do over’ when making decisions on the international stage,” said Allan C. Stam, Dean of the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy and Professor of Public Policy. “Batten is investing in developing simulations for public policy education to develop global leaders who have practice collaborating with peers to make hard policy decisions in time-compressed environments. The food security field is now brightened with hundreds of scholars with new solutions to feed 790 million people affected with hunger worldwide.”

“Simulation modeling and serious games for learning are a growing trend in public policy education,” Gerard P. Learmonth, Sr., Research Professor and Director of Center for Leadership Simulation and Gaming at Batten, a global leader in simulations for public policy education. “Serious games provide an opportunity for students to demonstrate their understanding of complicated world events and to experience decision-making that can affect outcomes, all in a simulated environment.”

First-Place Team:
The first-place team of the 2017 NASPAA-Batten Student Simulation Competition on Food Security was the “World Two” team at the Universidad de los Andes site in Bogotá, Colombia. The super judges cited the attention paid in both the video presentation and memos written by environmental, health, and agricultural program officers to implementation and especially the team’s recognition that there can be no global solution to achieving food security – strategy must adapt implementation to local regions.

Judges commented that the first-place team was “…grounded in the day-to-day of food insecurity around the world” and that its strategy recommendations to the CEO of the NGO were “practical and feasible” and focused on what would work “on the ground.” The super judges praised World Two’s discussion of results-based financing as a means to better implement the team’s program design ideas by providing closer-to-the-ground flexibility and effectiveness. The
judges also singled out the team’s interesting analysis of how Latin America could help the rest of the world improve food security as a unique contribution to the global competition.

Runner-Up Team:
The runner-up team of the 2017 NASPAA-Batten Student Simulation Competition on Food Security was the “World Two” team at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) site in New York City. The super judges commended the New York team for an “…outstanding grasp of the big picture” and its interest in “…taking an innovative approach,” with an exciting “embrace of new ideas” distributed through their presentation and memos. Judges cited their analysis of early warning systems for climate change, crop diversification, capital innovation, and links between local employment efforts and food security as being “insightful” and “connecting the macro-picture with getting at root causes.”

Third through Eighth Place Teams:
Super judges praised the consistently high quality of the memos across all eight sites, particularly given the time limits imposed as well as the language challenges faced by participants whose first language was not English. With respect to presentations, super judges noted the excellent visual presentation by the Arizona State World One site winner, and ”informal but competent” presentation by World One at the George Mason Site, but singled out presenters in New York City and Bogotá for their ability to succinctly frame the problem, establish the context, and connect the proposed solutions to identified needs. Again, recognizing the time limits imposed on preparation time, judges had high marks for the poise and rapid absorption of food security data and insights displayed by many “regional director” presenters in their oral remarks. One judge exclaimed, “I would hire that student tomorrow!” Judges also called attention to World One team at the United Nations University in Maastricht, Netherlands for its thoughtful and well-articulated strategy and the University of Washington World One team for focusing on the “….key elements that really affect people’s lives.” Judges also welcomed the first-time participation from students in Asian universities at the Tsinghua University site, noting that the team from China delivered a globally savvy presentation and set of memos.

Prizes and Beyond:
Students on the global first-place team will be eligible to be considered for special simulation competition prize summer internships with stipend at partner organizations such as the World Food Programme in Rome. The Batten School at the University of Virginia will also be making the food security computer simulation available for free for use in classrooms and institutions around the world.

Eight Site Locations:

  • Arizona State University – The School of Public Affairs, Phoenix, Arizona, USA
  • Columbia University – Earth Institute and School of International and Public Affairs, New York City, New York, USA
  • George Mason University – Schar School of Policy and Government, Arlington, Virginia, USA
  • Indiana University Bloomington and Indiana Purdue University Indianapolis – School of Public and Environmental Affairs, hosted in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
  • United Nations University (UNU-MERIT) – Maastricht Graduate School of Governance, Maastricht, Netherlands
  • Tsinghua University – School of Public Policy and Management, Beijing, China
  • Universidad de los Andes – Alberto Lleras Camargo School of Government, Bogotá, Colombia
  • University of Washington – Evans School of Public Affairs, Seattle, Washington, USA

Members of the global winning team (competing at the Bogotá site):

  • Angélica Pachón
  • Carlos Valadez
  • Damaris Rozo
  • Fabián David Camacho
  • Francisco Esquivel
  • Jineth Araujo
  • Juan Camilo Villalobos
  • Juan Pablo Espinosa
  • Juliana Díaz
  • Laura Mora
  • Maritza Zela
  • Sandra Manotas
  • Sasha Zapata
  • Sergio Peláez
  • Susana Yabrudy

The global winning team of the 2017 NASPAA-Batten Student Simulation Competition on Food Security, who competed at the Universidad de los Andes site in Bogotá, Colombia are graduate students from the following universities:

  • EAFIT University, Medellín, Colombia
  • Roger Williams University, Bristol, Rhode Island
  • Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia
  • Universidad del Rosario, Bogotá, Colombia
  • Universidad Externado de Colombia, Bogotá, Colombia
  • Universidad de Guanajuato, Guanajuato, Mexico

Members of the runner-up team (competing at the New York City site):

  • Ali Shehzad
  • Andera Cristina Ruiz
  • Anthony Morse
  • Arohi Sharma
  • Courtney Byrne-Mitchell
  • Craig Waltz
  • Hermela Dereje
  • Julianna Lombardi
  • Justin Cole
  • Karan Verma
  • Lina Marcela Osorio Copete
  • Luna Kim
  • Maria Flores
  • Milagros de Hoz
  • Nicholas Jensen
  • Samantha Levinson

The global runner-up the 2017 NASPAA-Batten Student Simulation Competition on Food Security, who competed at the Columbia University SIPA site are graduate students from the following universities:

  • Baruch College, New York City, New York
  • Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Columbia University SIPA, New York City, New York
  • Harvard Kennedy School, Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Pace University, New York City, New York
  • Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey
  • Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York
  • The New School, New York City, New York
  • University of Albany, Albany, New York
  • University of Massachusetts, Boston, Massachusetts
  • University of North Dakota, Grand Folks, North Dakota
  • Villanova University, Villanova Pennsylvania

List of all Judges:

Global Super Judges:

  • Josette Sheeran – President and CEO of Asia Society (previously served as Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme)
  • Steve Cohen – Executive Director, Earth Institute, Columbia University
  • Anand Desai – Section Head of Evaluation and Assessment, National Science Foundation
  • Mahfuz Ahmed – Technical Advisor in the Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department, ASIAN Development Bank

Host Site Judges:

  • Arizona State University:
    • ​Erin Lentz – Assistant Professor, LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin (worked or consulted with CARE, the United Nations World Food Program and numerous other international NGOs on markets, food security and food assistance programs)
    • Samuel Richard – Executive Director at Protecting Arizona’s Family Coalition
    • Elisa Jane Bienenstock – Associate Research Professor, Arizona State University
  • Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) Site Judges:
    • Isabelle Tsakok – Experienced Economist in Agriculture and Rural Development , Adjunct Professor at SIPA
    • Anouch Missirian – Ph.D. Candidate in Sustainable Development at Columbia SIPA
    • Suzanne Lipton – Project Manager, Earth Institute Center for Environmental Sustainability, Columbia University
  • Evans School in Seattle Washington Site Judges:
    • Marina Negroponte – Philanthropic Partnership Officer, Vulcan, Inc. (previously served as Government Partnership Officer with the UN World Food Programme)
    • Roy HeidelbergAssistant Professor, Louisiana State University’s Public Administration Institute
    • Jose Manuel Magallanes – Visiting Professor, Evans School of Public Policy and Governance (expert on computational approaches to public policy analysis
  • George Mason University (GMU) in Arlington, VA Site Judges:
    • Anand Desai – Description under global super judges
    • Ted Lyng – Director, Global Food Security Program, U.S. Department of State
    • Rajul Pandya-Lorch – Chief of Staff in the Director General’s Office, International Food Policy Research Institute
    • Yuko Akune – Associate Professor, Reitaku University (Japan) and Visiting Scholar, GMU’s Schar School of Policy and Government
  • Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) Site Judges:
    • Marlene Walk – Assistant Professor, School of Public and Environmental Affairs, IUPUI
    • Adam Ward – Environmental Scientist and Assistant Professor, IUPUI
    • Alyssa Newerth – Director, Indy Reads Books
    • Jerome Dumortier – Assistant Professor, School of Public and Environmental Affairs, IUPUI
  • Universidad De Los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia Site Judges:
    • Mónica Pachón – Dean of Political Science, Government and International Relations at Universidad del Rosario
    • Diego Lucumi – Associate Professor of Public Health, School of Government, Universidad de los Andes
    • Mauricio Velasquez – Associate Professor, Universidad de los Andes (expert on rural issues such as land and land distribution)
  • United Nations University – Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (UNU-MERIT) Site Judges:
    • Valerie Graw – Senior Researcher, University of Bonn’s Center of Remote Sensing of Land Surfaces (expert on land use, land degradation, agriculture technologies in Africa)
    • Dorcas Mbuvi – Senior Researcher, UNU – MERIT (expert on economic and human development, public policy and global governance)
    • Chase Sova – Director of Public Policy and Research, World Food Program USA
  • Tsinghua University in Beijing, China Site Judges:
    • Yumei CHEN– Public Administration, Political Methodology, Information Technology and Politics Professor, Jinan University
    • Chengyu ZHAN – Assistant Professor of Public Administration and Policy, School of Public Policy and Management, Tsinghua University
    • Feng CAO – Associate Professor, School of Political Science and Public Management, China University of Political Science and Law

In This Article

Systems Analyst, Center for Simulation Leadership Simulation and Gaming
Email Address
Phone Number
Office Location/Room Number
Garrett Hall, L002C
Research Professor of Policy Informatics
Phone Number
Office Location/Room Number
Garrett L002A
Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Director of the Center for Leadership Simulation and Gaming
Phone Number
Office Location/Room Number
Garrett L054