Carleton University’s SPPA team won the gold medal for their presentation on the case study “A Wicked Problem? Rough Sleeping in Cities” at the National Public Administration Student Case Competition on February 26.
The Carleton team consisted of students in SPPA’s Master of Public Policy and Administration program: Nick Harrison, Kelsey Johnson, Dong Ngo, Sydney Roy, and alternate Ben Phillips. This year’s coach was SPPA director and professor Jennifer Stewart.
The team spent almost two months analyzing different cases and developing an array of policy solutions for each case. “The competition allowed me to apply what I had learned in class over the course of my two-year degree to a scenario in a hands-on way,” says Johnson.
“The Case Competition was an intensive yet stimulating experience,” says Ngo. “Through the case competition, our team was able to gain a sense of the type of considerations and constraints policy analysts face in the public service.”
Harrison says, “The competition is an opportunity to develop critical thinking and presentation skills, and to collaborate with a fantastic team of people and interact with a broad range of intelligent ideas.”
The team had the opportunity to work with adjunct professors and alumni who helped prepare them by assisting with tryouts, being a weekly guest coach or attending practice sessions to give feedback.
“Over the weeks practicing and preparing, it was so special to have the chance to work with experts in their field and to learn about their specific areas of expertise,” says Roy. “My experience was made even more special by the great team — our diverse backgrounds brought different perspectives to the table, but our strong collaboration skills brought it all together.”
Working as a Team
The experience allows students to learn more about public policy processes, but also how to collaborate with a team to create a solid case.
“The past two months required me to work with every member on the team in numerous ways,” says Phillips. “Spending many hours with the same group of people can easily create tension if it is not managed properly. I was lucky to be on a team that was inclusive, dedicated and hard working.”
While the competition was a big commitment of time and energy, Johnson says the long hours passed quickly thanks to wonderful teammates. “Their varying perspectives, good natured humour and exceptional talents helped us craft a presentation we could all be proud of.”
One of the biggest takeaways Ngo has from the competition is the importance of collaboration and team dynamics. “A key part of our team’s success was how close knit we were as a group and how we were able to draw upon our different perspectives and backgrounds to address any given policy problem we were assigned. This was particularly evident during the week of the competition where we drew upon each of our respective fields of expertise to develop our presentation.”
Advice for Future Students
The students all agree that the competition has been a highlight of their master’s degree and graduate school experience.
“I strongly encourage any MPPA student looking for a way to apply their policy knowledge in a practical way in a professional-development type setting to consider trying out for the case competition team,” says Johnson.
Ngo encourages anyone who is considering trying out for the team next year to reach out to the faculty or past members of the case team to learn more about the experience. “I didn’t intend to join the case team this year, but did so after learning more about the competition through talking with former members of the team.”
Harrison adds, “Working with the team and our coach has been the highlight of my degree and I would urge every student in the SPPA to give it a shot.”
The team will use the skills they learned leading up to the competition and the feedback from judges on competition day as they move forward in their careers.
“The feedback and guidance the team received from our coach and guest coaches was insightful,” says Johnson. “I know that their advice on how to build a strong presentation narrative will be skills I will use over the course of my career.”
“The team took full advantage of this wonderful learning opportunity,” says coach Jennifer Stewart. “They worked hard, listened to advice and comments from coaches, and grew as policy analysts. They are ready for the next exciting step in their careers and I am excited to see where they go.”
The National Public Administration Student Case Competition is jointly presented by the Canadian Association of Programs in Public Administration (CAPPA) and the Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC).
This year, the silver medal went to Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy (Universities of Regina and Saskatchewan). Bronze went to the University of British Columbia’s School of Public Policy and Global Affairs.
The other 2022 teams were from the Concordia University, Dalhousie University, Glendon College (York University), Queen’s University, Ryerson University, Simon Fraser University, University of Alberta, University of Toronto, Université Laval, University of Victoria, and York University.