The winning team from MPD with competition adviser and judge -- left to right Hui Guo, Yuan Huaqing, professor Roberto Suro, professor Pam Starr, Chengcheng Niu and Biaojie Lin.
Photo by Sarah Lee

Master of Public Diplomacy team shares top prize in USC Global Case Challenge

A team of four MPD students -- Hui Guo, Chengcheng Niu,  Huaqing Yuan, (MPD ‘16) and Biaojie Lin (MPD ‘17) – scored a victory in USC’s first Global Case Challenge, mounted by the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute and the Graduate Policy and Administration Community, both affiliated with the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy. They shared the top spot in the competition with a team from the Price school when the judges declared there was tie for first place.

This year’s challenge required students to consider the European Union’s refugee crisis and propose two policy recommendations for the US government.  The competition had two stages: a policy memo writing round and a presentation round.  The winning team – one of two from the MPD to enter the competition – learned of the challenge from the Association of Public Diplomacy Scholars Facebook group and thought that it might be an exciting way to apply what they had been learning in the MPD degree. 

The youngest member of the team – Lin – noted that preparing for the challenge "wasn’t an easy process for us not just because of the looming final week of the semester, but also because our team comprised only Chinese students.  It was difficult for us to view the refugee crisis in America’s shoes.  We spent several sleepless nights researching the E.U.s case and trying to think of feasible recommendations for the United States."

Lin considers his MPD class work to have been an excellent preparation: "Although this was a public policy challenge, we still incorporated what we have learned in our public diplomacy courses, especially PUBD 504 (Global Issues in Public Diplomacy) to the design of our proposal."  

Their winning proposal borrowed the concept of the Carbon Trade Market and culminated with a comprehensive humanitarian aid package.  The team proposed the establishment of a Federal Inter-state Coordination Committee to engage every state in the negotiation process of accepting refugees in the U.S.; and an aid package to better the living situations of refugees in their home countries partly through public diplomatic tools including exchanges and cultural diplomacy.

Speaking for the team Lin said: "Frankly speaking, earning the first prize in this case challenge wasn’t our goal when we started out.  It was such a wonderful experience getting our ideas recognized by renowned professors in the Price School and leaders in the field of public services. We attribute our success to the logical foundation of our policy memo, which got us through to the presentation round, and our well-prepared answers in the Q&A section. We have learned a lot in this process not just by reading all the materials concerning the refugee crisis and American policies, but by thinking of ways to incorporate what we have learned in our MPD classes to a proposal and by hearing our fellow contestants’ plans. All in all, it has been a truly enlightening process and we wish there can be more chances in the future to participate in such events."

Responding on behalf of the MPD degree the degree’s director professor Nick Cull said: "I was delighted when MPD students entered this competition and I am over the moon that one of those teams has won first place.  The success of this team is testament to the creativity of these four students and of their fellows in the MPD program, who have consistently done such impressive work over the ten years we’ve been running.  Special credit should go to my colleague and veteran public diplomacy professor Bob Banks who runs PUBD 504 and places such emphasis on rigorous planning.  I appreciate the hard work of our own professor Pamela Starr, who served as a judge, and of professor Roberto Suro, director of the Tomas Rivera, who served as faculty advisor and sponsor, and especially, Sarah Lee, a student in the Master of Public Policy program at Price who directed the challenge. I’ve no doubt MPD students will be back next year to defend the title!" 

Commenting on the competition professor Suro noted: "Our hope was to get teams of students thinking about what the United States could learn from the refugee crisis in Europe and the multiple policy failures it has produced.  The results exceeded everyone’s expectations. Nearly 30 students participated. They all worked hard and demonstrated a lot of creativity and talent in both their analyses and presentations. The winners were truly exceptional."