Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) students enrolled in the Graduate School of Defense Management (GSDM) participated in one of the largest student simulation competitions annually, held by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration (NASPAA) and the University of Virginia Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.
Held at university’s around the world, U.S. Navy Lts. Kevan Mellendick and John Heyde, from GSDM’s Manpower Systems Analysis (MSA) program, represented NPS in the 2020 NASPAA-Batten Student Simulation Competition, competing at Pepperdine University in early March. In total, more than 350 students from 114 universities in 46 countries competed in randomly assigned teams.
This year's competition challenged the students to take leadership roles in a simulated city and implement policies to develop a sustainable public transit system. For Medical Service Corps officers studying MSA at NPS, the transition from providing manning and distribution of medical resources across the Navy to providing the manning and resources to support a city's transit system relied on finding common traits between both.
“[The city simulation] was not defense-related, but it was a lot of basic economics and we had to work through the logic from an economist's point of view, because that was a lot of our training with MSA,” said Mellendick.
“It involved labor economics dealing with large, interconnected models of incentive building as well as supply and demand issues,” added Heyde. “Then, we kind of abstracted those models largely into the simulation.”
Both students attribute their education at NPS to being able to develop the critical thinking, problem solving, and analytical skills required to manage their simulated city.
“I think that the perspectives of the professors, especially when you get a chance to talk to them one-on-one … to really break down deep into certain things, really shows how they think,” said Mellendick.
“If you apply that to the same problems yourself, you can work in a lot of different things once you have enough information and collaboration and communicate those ideas in the end,” said Heyde.
Mellendick and Heyde showed that their education from NPS worked in tandem to its civilian counterparts as they worked with their teams consisting of graduate students from other schools.
“Graduate level students are graduate level students,” said Heyde. “We work in teams here at NPS and there are some good team dynamics and bright personalities. It was the same during the competition, getting a group of people who you can all get going on the same page and the same goal.”
In the end, effective critical thinking and teamwork rewarded Mellendick as the judges announced his team as the third-place winners of the 2020 Global NASPAA-Batten Student Simulation Competition.
Working with differently skilled team members on a simulated exercise has been an experience that will help the two NPS students after they graduate and return to the fleet to develop plans to solve relatable problems.
“It's about trying to develop effective models to solve complicated, interconnected problems,” said Mellendick. “We take this abstract concept and apply it to another abstract concept that might be more narrowly defined and potentially pressing to the military.”