Public Administration graduate students successfully compete in national contest on wildfire crisis management

Author: Ernita Joaquin
March 15, 2023
two groups of students at NASPAA meeting

Pictured (left) SF State MPA students; (right) winning team “Code Red”

On March 4, four SF State Master of Public Administration (MPA) students joined fellow graduate students from all over the country to participate in a wildfire simulation competition sponsored by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA), the accrediting body for SF State’s flagship graduate program in public affairs, the MPA.

Stephen Kraemer, Forest Kerstetter, Sally Mei and Shae Hancock (MPA candidate and chief of operations with SF State’s University Enterprises) all joined national task forces charged with developing a fire mitigation plan for the fictitious town of Westmount. 

Each player was assigned a role on a task force (mayor, forest service ranger, water authority manger, environmental organization representative or a local citizen coalition representative). All the roles had well-developed personal and professional motivations, but players had to negotiate a plan that would work for the citizens of Westmount as a whole. 

The scenerio was complex, and included immersive details players had to take into account such as wind, temperature and seasons — as well as the socioeconomic differences between the neighborhoods in Westmount. Every decision that was made could change each character’s performance measurement in real time — there were angry constituents, and even a harsh note of rebuke from a player’s boss! The final work product was a policy brief outlining the decisions and mitigation plan, as well as a presentation to the other groups. While the rounds went on, the judges would come around asking questions about the group’s decision-making process, and the answers would count toward the final score. 

Overall, it was a rigorous day, but many of the students felt like they really were an intergovernmental task-force. There were roadblocks, setbacks and complicated situations that took everyone working together in order to deliver a service for the public good. SF State MPA candidate Shae Hancock was on the winning team, “Code Red,” which will have its presentation and policy brief submitted to a global competition later this year. 

Code Red Team:

  • David Arguelles, San Diego State University
  • Ashley Brittner Wells, University of Montana
  • Marisa McCarthy, University of San Francisco
  • Beth O’Leary, University of San Francisco
  • Shae Antonette Hancock, San Francisco State University 

SF State MPA Graduate Student Contingent:

  • Stephen Kraemer
  • Sally Mei
  • Forest Kerstetter
  • Shae Antonette Hancock