SPEA Law and Public Policy Program hosts first case competition

Guest post courtesy of IU Newsroom intern Annie Brackemyre

The new Law and Public Policy Program will solidify its prominence as a SPEA program this week, hosting the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs’ first internal case competition.

The case competition kicked off last week with the release of the prompt: whether and how Indiana should expand pre-kindergarten programs. It will close with judging and a reception Friday, April 10. The entire competition is contained in this one-week period, giving student teams seven days to prepare a one-page memo and a PowerPoint presentation.

Expanding pre-kindergarten programs is the topic of the SPEA Law and Public Policy Program case competition.

Expanding pre-kindergarten programs is the topic of the SPEA Law and Public Policy Program case competition.

Eight teams, each made up of four to six students, registered for the competition, a resounding success for the brand new event. At the time of registration, students were told only that the prompt would deal with education policy.

“In holding a case competition centered around public policy, we hoped to create an opportunity for undergraduate students to ‘dive deep’ on an interesting question outside of the classroom,” said Melissa Spas, project specialist in SPEA. “By working with a team to apply a variety of their skills to address a real-world challenge, we expect that participants will develop their skills, as well as deepen their subject knowledge.”

Students of all backgrounds, not just those in SPEA, were invited to participate regardless of previous experience or class standing. The Law and Public Policy Program hosted two nights of workshops, bringing in experts to teach the registered teams about policy research, memo writing, public speaking and professional PowerPoint presenting.

The case competition is the brainchild of M.P.A/J.D. student Scott Breen, who brought insight into the case competition design through a history of personal success at other case competitions. He worked with Spas, SPEA Assistant Dean Doug Goldstein and graduate student Scott Zellner to write the case brief and carry out the logistics of hosting the competition.

“Sometimes school can be frustrating because it’s a lot of reading and writing about theory,” said Breen. “The case competition is meant to place students in the position of advisors that need to make a recommendation given real facts. Hopefully this adds a real world flavor to the competition.”

Because of overwhelming participation, the competition will be split between two teams of judges that listen to team presentations throughout the day and then convene to compare scores and select a winner. The winning team will be honored with a private networking dinner with the judges at a later date. All of the participants will have the opportunity to hear feedback and talk with the judges at a networking reception immediately following the competition.

“I hope the Law and Public Policy Case Competition becomes something of a SPEA institution,” said Zellner. “I hope the competition works to bring the SPEA community closer together through the involvement of students in every class standing, faculty, and professionals in their respective policy fields.”

Judges include:

  • Scott Breen, a joint J.D. and M.P.A 2015 candidate
  • Brian Delong, SPEA lecturer and university debate coach
  • Chuck Dunlap, executive director of the Indiana Bar Foundation
  • Nadja Michel-Herf, financial and operations analyst at Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard’s Office of Education Innovation
  • Steve Hinnefeld, media relations specialist at IU Communications
  • Erin Predmore, executive director of Monroe County United Ministries.

The Law and Public Policy Program, established in 2013, consists of a major and a minor within the Bachelor of Science degree program in SPEA. It offers undergraduates the unique opportunity to study under law professors at IU’s Maurer School of Law.

“It is a rigorous major, intended to prepare students to take on complex problems and is a good fit for students with interests as wide-ranging as social justice issues, data privacy or intellectual property rights,“ said Spas.

The public is invited to view the participants present their cases Friday. Anyone interested can report to the SPEA undergraduate lounge on the hour, every hour from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and 2-4 p.m. to watch case deliveries.

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