SFU student team wins national public policy case competition on home turf

March 08, 2018

A team of four master’s students from the School of Public Policy took top honours at the seventh annual CAPPA IPAC National Public Administration student case competition, Canada’s only national-level case competition dedicated to public administration and policy.

First-year students Rehnuma Islam, Peter Lunka, Chris Raftis and Sinéad Stinson, along with teams from 12 schools coast to coast, had a gruelling week of research, analysis and practice in preparation for the Feb. 23-24 competition, hosted by SFU’s School of Public Policy at the Vancouver campus.

The case, a hypothetical pipeline project involving B.C. and Alberta, tested the teams because of the complicated range of factors to consider.

On competition day, teams had 20 minutes to present their approaches and were grilled with questions by a panel of six judges in the roles of BC MLAs, who determined the winning combination of strategic thinking, feasibility, thoroughness and presentation style. The members of the judging panel are no strangers to complex issues, holding real-life roles at senior levels in federal and provincial governments and the private sector.

Maureen Maloney, one of the faculty coaches for the SFU team, said the team “won because they worked together seamlessly and collaboratively. They also worked extremely hard to ensure they did the research and practice that was required for this level of competition.”

With generous support from lead sponsor Manulife and presenting partners Ernst & Young, Canada School of Public Service and Institute for Research in Public Policy IRPP, students had a great opportunity to learn and engage with other young policy professionals from across Canada. One example was the event’s Learning Forum, where students could watch a live webcast of the presentations.

Participants enjoyed facilitated discussions of each presentation, led by Jennifer Ditchburn, Editor-in-Chief of the journal Policy Options and a frequent contributor to television and radio public affairs programs, who has been involved with the CAPPA IPAC case competition for the past four years.

The two-day event wrapped up with a well-deserved awards reception at Steamworks pub, with the much-anticipated announcement of the top three teams. SFU took first place, with Carleton University in second and Johnson Shoyama (University of Regina/University of Saskatchewan) placing third.

SFU team member Sinead Stinson reflected on the team’s performance, noting that “participating in the National Case Competition really showed how applicable the skills are that we learn here in the School of Public Policy. One strength of our team was our wide range of backgrounds and skills, which meant that we learned a lot from each other when developing our case.”

This year’s case competition made a real impression on SFU faculty coach Kora deBeck, who says “it was wonderful to see our team draw on the skills they learned in the program and excel when they were in the hot seat. They approached questions from the judges with confidence and humility. As the host institution, another highlight was seeing the level of involvement, excitement and support our other SPP students and alumni brought to the competition.”

In 2019, the case competition moves to Ottawa, where it will be hosted by Carleton University.