Master of Public Administration (MPA) and Master of Public Policy (MPP) students in the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy (JSGS), at the University of Regina and University of Saskatchewan, placed third at the 2021 National Public Administration Case Competition, held virtually this past Saturday, February 20. Teams from the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto and Concordia University placed first and second, respectively.
Organized by the Canadian Association of Programs in Public Administration (CAPPA), the Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC), and Carleton University, this year’s online competition saw twelve graduate schools of public policy and public administration competing from across Canada.
Coached by JSGS Executives-in-Residence Ron Styles, former President of SaskTel, and Lin Gallagher, former Deputy Minister of Parks Culture and Sport and Deputy Minister of Environment, the JSGS team consisted of Catherine Cullen, Melissa From, Cameron Symon, Parvin Yazdanparast, and alternates Brady Kroeker and Prince Anim.
“This was an incredible opportunity to put our classroom learning into practice,” said Melissa From, MPA student. “We had a very strong team that functioned very similar to a public service department.”
Ripped from the headlines, this year’s case study A National Disgrace: Long-Term Care and COVID-19 focused on long-standing issues within the long-term care system, many of which were amplified by the pandemic, growing public concerns, provincial/territorial fiscal challenges, and intergovernmental tensions.
Student teams—under the guise of public servants from each of their respective provincial governments—briefed the six-person judging panel on a coordinated national approach. The judging panel included Jim Mitchell, University of Ottawa; Suzy McDonald, Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Federal-Provincial Relations and Social Policy Branch, Department of Finance, Government of Canada; Jeannine Ritchot, Assistant Deputy Minister, Communications and Portfolio Sector, Natural Resources Canada; Raynelle Wilson, Chair of the Public Service Commission, Government of Saskatchewan; Steve Orsini, Former Clerk of Executive Council, Government of Ontario; and Andre Fortier, Former Clerk of Executive Council, Government of Quebec.
“Presenting in front of such an esteemed panel of judges was nerve wracking but it was such a valuable experience to hear the types of questions that they would ask and to have the opportunity to practice these skills in this forum,” said From.
As public servants within Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Health, the JSGS team took a four-step approach that focused on maintaining public confidence, providing patient and family-centred care, minimizing the risk of COVID-19 transmission, and preparing for the future. The team also evaluated their options from the perspectives of those individuals in homecare (i.e. independent living), in assisted care facilities, and in long-term care facilities where medical needs are complex and patients require institutional settings. With each scenario, the team considered value-based care, infrastructure, and staffing needs within the province, and jurisdictional considerations such as funding (federal responsibility) and ongoing regulatory matters (provincial/territorial responsibility).
"The students participating in the competition this year were exceptional and demonstrated such commitment to the task,” said Lin Gallagher. “They started preparing for the national competition in mid-December; with almost weekly coaching sessions on team building, presentation skills and case study simulations. Once the actual case completion began on February 10, the team worked daily to prepare for the final event on February 20. Throughout, Ron and I were impressed with the students’ academic aptitude, analytical skills and dedication to the team."
The judges also commended the team on their ability to take a broad perspective on the problem outlined in the case study while identifying, analyzing, and articulating the core policy issues. They gave high praise to the team on their understanding of Saskatchewan’s perspective, on their high-quality presentation (in terms of content, structure, and delivery), and on how the team handled the Q&A portion of the competition.
This is the third time in the past ten years that JSGS students have placed in the top three at the national competition, with previous teams placing third in 2018 and second in 2013.
In November 2020, JSGS students competed in a virtual internal case competition that saw students from around the world working together to highlight their knowledge and expertise while competing for the first place title. Based on the students’ performance, the school’s leadership team in consultation with coaches Styles and Gallagher, selected Cullen, From, Symon and Yazdanparast to represent the school at the national competition.
About Team JSGS
Catherine Cullen is a registered social worker with experience in child welfare, mental health and addictions and youth justice sectors. While Catherine has loved working directly with people for the 5 years, she hopes to translate her frontline experience into public policy work. Along with pursuing an MPA, Catherine is taking steps toward this new direction and will be beginning a new role with BC Pension Corporation. As a previous varsity athlete, Catherine also continues to enjoy competitive and recreational sports of all kinds.
Parvin Yazdanparast is an MPA candidate and a policy intern with the Government of Saskatchewan, where she is engaged in various policy analysis and development projects. With her Bachelor's degree in engineering and some work experience in industrial health and safety, Parvin views policy issues critically from this added perspective. Parvin is also serving as a Board member in Regina Public Interest Research Group, a non-profit organization that supports social justice and community-based research in the public interest.
Melissa From has worked as a leader and advocate in the non-profit sector for over 15 years. In her current role as CEO of Junior Achievement Southern Alberta, Melissa has led the organization to double its annual revenue and student reach, impacting the lives of nearly 40, 000 students each year. In addition to a Bachelor of Business Administration, Melissa holds a Certificate in Non-profit Management from Mount Royal University and the CFRE designation. She is currently completing her MPA at the University of Saskatchewan. Melissa currently sits on the Board of Directors for the Alberta Mentoring Partnership. She is an avid volunteer in her community and enjoys the organized chaos of life with her husband and two children.
Cameron Symon is in his first year of the MPA program at the school’s University of Regina campus. Cameron worked as a paramedic throughout Saskatchewan, and after completing an undergraduate degree, moved into research and policy, first with the Saskatchewan Health Authority and now with the Government of Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Health. Cameron enjoys camping and hiking with his wife and two dogs in the summer and avoiding the cold as much as possible through the Saskatchewan winter.
Prince Anim is a Master of Public Policy student in the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy’s University of Regina campus, and a member Professor Longo’s Digital Governance Lab. With a BSc in business administration from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, his current research focuses on the challenges and opportunities of emerging technologies in public innovation. Prince serves on the board of the Regina Public Interest Research Group, a student-run non-profit organization dedicated to community-based research, education and awareness in the public interest. He also volunteers with the University of Regina International Office as an International Peer Advisor, where he helps international students smoothly transition into the academic system and living environment.
Brady Kroeker is an MPA candidate with experience in the post-secondary disability sector as Saskatchewan director for a national disability non-profit organization. Through this work, he has been involved on several advocacy efforts, such as consultations with the federal civil service on the Canada Emergency Student Benefit. Brady is currently participating in the Access and Equity Services policy revision group at the University of Saskatchewan.