EMPA Student Wins Worldwide Public Policy Competition as Part of Five-Person Team


Mariana Duenas (fourth from right), graduate of GGU’s Executive Master of Public Administration program (’18), won a worldwide public policy competition as part of a five-person team that prevailed over 130 teams from 159 universities and 27 countries. The 2018 NASPAA-Batten Student Simulation Competition was the largest-ever event conducted in higher education for the Public Administration field. International experts on public policy, comparative government studies, and global health issues judged the students on simulation scores, negotiation skills, and presentations.

Each team represented a fictitious country and assumed a variety of high-ranking roles, from Prime Minster to Minister of Public Health, and navigated difficult policy decisions and their potential outcomes. Duenas says: “As a team, we had to communicate among us to decide on preventative measures to minimize and control a disease outbreak from spreading — and ultimately control the number of deaths. As part of a government, our team all agreed that the main goals were to take preventative measures, handle emergency responses, and return to normalcy. I believe we were able to achieve our intended goals because we all collaborated and communicated so well together as a team.”

Data and Public-Policy Decision Making

The competition format was a computer simulation developed by Center for Leadership Simulation and Gaming (CLSG) at the University of Virginia Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy – providing competitors with real global-health data to evaluate. CLSG Director Noah Myung explains, on its website, that the computer simulation, “was immersive so that each student can benefit from experiential learning prior to going out into the real world.”

The Executive Master of Public Administration degree is a great program that is tailored to working professionals who want to go back to school. GGU made it very easy for me to continue working full-time while completing the degree in 18 months.
—Mariana Duenas (EMPA, ’18)

“We live in a real-world situation of contrasts: ‘fake news’ and Big Data. Thus, GGU EMPA students are trained to make evidence- and data-driven analysis prior to making policy decisions,” adds Jay Gonzalez, George Christopher Professor of Public Administration and Chair of the GGU’s EMPA Program.

“The simulation competition fits well with a big part of what the faculty expects of the EMPA students,” says Mick McGee, DPA, Associate Professor of Public Administration at GGU. “Examples are the ability to think critically and synthesize information, gain knowledge (and its application in global and multicultural business and legal environments), respect diversity, and adapt in a rapidly changing world.”

Passion for Public Service

Public Administration inspires Duenas’ passions and not just her competitive spirit. Currently, she works as a Child Support Analyst at the County of San Mateo. “I honestly believe this field chose me, she says. “I like being involved in my community and ‘giving back’ and, I believe, I can achieve that working in this field.”

Duenas has just completed the Graduate Research Project in Public Management and her capstone thesis: “The Impact of Spanish Caseload on Customer Satisfaction and Reliability of Payments.”

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