It’s been one year since a team of five O’Neill IUPUI MPA candidates traveled to the University of Michigan to take part in a NASPAA-Batten Student Simulation. There, students form teams to tackle a timely topic and use policy decisions to help address it. The topic on the table: global migration.
But the team didn’t get there on their own. Riley Sandel helped with the trip’s planning in 2019. He says they knew the opportunity was unique—but funding was a problem. Without the support of alumni donations, he says their plan never would have come to fruition.
“In all honesty, our team of five would not have gone without the financial help we received from O’Neill alumni,” he says.
A new group of MPA students will head to the 2020 simulation on March 7 to discuss how to create sustainable cities. Donations from the IUPUI O’Neill School Annual Giving Fund helps to make experiences like this possible for students.
Sandel, Stacy Robinson, Michael Weigel, Meghann Bowman, and Josslyn Kennedy know what this year’s group of students will face. Each of them took on a different role in their fictional country during the simulation. Their job was to manage migration.
They spent 12 hours evaluating the issue, developing policy-based solutions, and working with neighboring nations. But beyond the policymaking practice, the team says they walked away with larger learnings that will last throughout their careers:
“It’s a professional experience that I can take with me for the future. It’s not just a line on my resume. It’s something I can really talk about in interviews.”
“It provided us the opportunity to connect with people throughout the Midwest who are also pursuing their MPAs and are interested in policy decisions. It introduced us to diverse opinions, amongst ourselves and when we worked with other groups.”
“We were able to network with other cohorts of MPA programs. This experience allowed us to understand what other people are working on who are interested in policy.”
“At O’Neill, we talk a lot about collaboration on problems and the complexities behind that. This experience showed us that you have to collaborate because every decision we made was so complex and interconnected. It was great to deal with that in a real-time situation.”
“It is a simulation but it takes what we learn in class and tests it. Education isn’t just someone talking to you at the front of a classroom. It’s getting out and taking advantage of opportunities like this that provide hands-on learning.”
As for future simulations, Sandel says they will need alumni to help again to make it happen.
“If you are an O’Neill MPA program alum and didn’t have this opportunity, you can understand the merit of doing something outside of listening to a lecture,” he says. “Being in a classroom is vital, but our alums are in the real world and know the impact this type of learning can have. There’s a reality to the way the world works. This very much opened people’s eyes to that. It’s not just about reading and talking. It’s about learning by doing.”