A recent Graduate School of Business and Public Policy (GSBPP) graduate has emerged triumphant in a major international simulation competition.
U.S. Navy Lt. Jessika Hall represented the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) in March on the winning global team at an annual event held by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration (NASPAA) and the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.
The 2018 NASPAA-Batten Student Simulation competition pitted 563 graduate students from 27 countries in an intense public health crisis management simulation.
“The GSBPP students who have represented NPS in these NASPAA simulation competitions for the past four years were selected by their advisors as the top performers in their graduating cohorts,” Keith Snider, NPS professor of public administration and management, said after the results were announced April 16.
“Their participation, and in particular Lt. Hall’s leadership on this year’s winning team, enhance NPS’ reputation both nationally and internationally as an institution whose graduates think analytically, creatively and collaboratively about global policy issues,” he added.
Hall’s five-person team first triumphed at the regional level of the student simulation competition held at San Jose State University’s College of Social Sciences. Twenty-one victorious teams from 14 other host sites around the world were also victorious at other regional events, and were then evaluated on their performance by the competition’s ‘super judges.’
“I’m so honored they chose our team,” Hall said. “It was a valuable opportunity to experience how you can overcome challenging situations even if there’s a lot of stuff being quickly thrown at you. When life throws stuff at you, you just keep on going.”
Utilizing real-world data and scientific modeling, the day-long event challenged the students to assume national leadership roles in four fictitious countries and rapidly react to the outbreak of a deadly infectious disease. In the initial round, Hall’s team tanked: millions of people died as the pandemic spread around the world.
“We had to learn really quickly to work well together,” Hall recalled. “The simulation taught us the need to communicate not just amongst the staff of policymakers, but throughout the world.”
The team rallied, however, issuing policy directives in the ensuing rounds on everything from medical infrastructure to tourism, all the while proactively coordinating with other nations to mitigate the pandemic. The teams were assessed not only on how well they tampered the impact of the disease’s outbreak, but on how they performed as a team.
“Overall, we did pretty well in the simulation itself, but the judges said they really liked that we rapidly grew together and jumped on the learning curve,” Hall explained.
Hall shares the prestigious award with Brian Cauley (San Francisco State University), Mariana Duenas (Golden Gate University), Jessie Escobar (University of San Francisco) and Victoria Padilla (California State University, Chico). Each will receive a $1,500 first-place prize.
“I’ve got to give up for my team,” Hall added. “They are incredibly talented, hard-working individuals, and without knowing each other and coming from different professional and academic backgrounds, we became a cohesive unit in a matter of hours.”
Though incredibly challenging, the NASPAA-Batten competition was a fun test of the critical thinking skills she honed at NPS while pursuing her degree. And the results seem to be something of a trend when it comes to Lt. Jessika Hall.
In March, the GSBPP graduate received her diploma with a 4.0 GPA. At the same time, she earned an NPS Graduate of Distinction commendation and received both the Louis D. Liskin Award for Excellence in Management and shared the Chief of Naval Personnel Award for Excellence in Manpower Systems Analysis.
“I don’t like not doing a good job,” Hall said. “My mom raised me to always do my best and I’ve always been that way.”
For her thesis work, Hall examined organizational and individual barriers to the adoption of emerging technologies in education.
“My four-year-old son was my inspiration,” she said. “He’s pre-K and they use smart boards and tablets. The Navy’s got some cool stuff out there, but we should be doing the same kinds of things.”
When she wasn’t saving humanity or scoring the highest marks, Hall actively engaged in community volunteer work as well. She crafted spare time to regularly deliver meals to the elderly through Meals on Wheels and teach mathematics to disadvantaged high school students.
“I like to keep busy,” Hall laughed when asked how she managed to take on so much. “It’s always been ingrained in me that if I think people are struggling, sometimes they just need a little bit of help or a nudge in the right direction.”
Her success, she emphasized, was not hers alone. The support of her family, the attentiveness of NPS faculty, and the camaraderie of her classmates all propelled her through the rigors of higher education.
“We had a really close cohort of students and they brought so much to the table that I didn’t know coming in here,” Hall said. “I think the reason I did well was because of how much I learned from everyone that was around me ... We all helped each other.”
Hall has departed NPS for her next duty assignment at Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois, where she will apply her graduate work in the education of new recruits.