Damien Chen, Stephanie Liu, Cassandra Parsons, Manal Masud and coach Beth Snow with the CES Student Case Competition first place prize.

MPH students win national case competition

June 27, 2019

By Clement Woo

Last month, four SFU health sciences master’s students, Manal Masud, Cassandra Parsons, Kathy Chan, and Stephanie Liu, along with philosophy master’s student Damien Chen, won the Canadian Evaluation Society’s Student Case Competition.

The case competition was an invaluable learning experience for Masud, Parsons, Chan, and Liu, currently students in the Faculty of Health Sciences’ Master of Public Health (MPH) program. Some team members had previously taken HSCI 826 (Program Planning and Evaluation) and others were currently taking the course, so the competition was a great opportunity to put their evaluation knowledge from the course into practice.

“As MPH students, it was rewarding to apply our social justice and equity lens, which is a major theme of our learnings from our program.” says Liu.

The Canadian Evaluation Society (CES) Student Case Competition is a two-round annual competition that helps post-secondary students build and showcase their program evaluation skills through real-world programs and cases. Students work together in teams to respond to a request for proposals over a limited time period.

"The proposals reflected current events such as the legalization of cannabis and programs to support refugees. These real world cases meant that our evaluation could potentially be implemented which added a sense of urgency and importance to the proposal." says Chan.

The SFU “Bridge2Action” team was coached by Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) professor Beth Snow, who shared her evaluation expertise and practical advice from her own evaluation practice throughout the competition.

“We were very nervous going into the first round and prepared as much as we could but managing time proved to be challenging on competition day,” says Masud. “When we heard that our team had qualified for the finals with the highest score from the first round, we were very excited and it definitely boosted our confidence.”

CES, with support from the Canadian Evaluation Society Educational Fund, sponsored 80% of the trip to the final round in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and FHS supported the rest. The sponsorship allowed the students to focus their energy on learning about program evaluation and evaluation methodology without having to worry about finances.

“Before the competition day, we had a pretty good idea of each member's unique strengths and working style, which we were able to leverage while developing a winning presentation for the final round of the competition.” says Masud.

At the end of the final five hour evaluation case competition, the Bridge2Action team was named the 2019 winner out of the three finalists.

“This was such a unique and rewarding experience which demonstrated the benefit of getting involved and putting yourself out there,” says Parsons. “Public health is a large field and there are many ways to get involved and discover new areas or fields.”

“We went from not knowing much about the field of evaluation, to working hard and becoming National Student Evaluation champs!” says Parsons. “We're really proud and now we're excited to learn and become more engaged in this field.”

Team Bridge2Action: Manal Masud, Cassandra Parsons, Kathy Chan, Damien Chen and Stephanie Liu, with their coach Beth Snow.