From left: Catherine Cullen, Cameron Symon, Parvin Yazdanparast, Melissa From, and Prince Anim. Missing: Brady Kroeker. (Photo: Compiled)

USask JSGS students place third in national competition

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.

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.

Read more about Team JSGS.

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