Schwarzenegger Institute Sponsors USC’s Local Government Case Challenge

By Jackson Hite

The Schwarzenegger Institute sponsored USC’s 2nd Local Government Case Challenge that took place February 5th – 8th. In its second year, the case challenge brought together students from the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy to address and come up with a solution for an actual issue faced by the City of Simi Valley. These students included Master of Public Administration, Master of Public Policy and Master of Planning that worked in teams to address the feasibility of the City of Simi Valley acquiring streetlights from Southern California Edison and converting the existing lights to LED lights.  The teams were judged on their ability to articulate the problem and identify their solution in both an oral and written format. Students prepared a 20 minute presentation followed by 10 minutes of question and answer in addition to a comprehensive staff report with recommendation for the City Council. Various local government leaders served on a panel of judges that evaluated the teams solutions based on practicality, ease of implementation, political feasibility, and demonstrated knowledge of the challenges associated with streetlight acquisition and conversion. The judges included retired City Managers, Assistant to City Manager, Deputy Public Works Director, Procurement Manager, Senior Management Analysts, and Senior Planner from municipal government organizations in Southern California in addition to an adjunct faculty member.  

The dedication of these students addressed a real world policy issue faced by a Southern California municipality. Additionally, students were able to gain practical experience in researching, developing and presenting an item for a decision making body. The City of Simi Valley and judges were able to gain new insight into current best practices from academia and innovative out-of-the-box ideas. The case challenge provided for collaboration and learning between students, practitioners and academics. Each participant had the opportunity to continue their conversation with the judges over an informal networking lunch following the presentations.

The winning team included Megan Baaske (MPP ’15), Samuel Kwon (MPA ’15), Heidi Wiersma (MPA ’15) and Mengwen Stephanie Zhang (MPA ’14). The winning team will receive complimentary attendance to the Municipal Management Association of Southern California (MMASC’s) Winter Forum, in addition to a cash prize, and the opportunity to further collaborate with the City of Simi Valley. Representatives from two of USC’s student groups, Graduate Policy Administration Community (GPAC) and International City County Management Association at University of Southern California (ICMA@USC), collaboratively planned USC’s 2nd Local Government Case Challenge. This event was made possible through the support of the USC City/County Management Fellow Board and Municipal Management Association of Southern California. The event would not have been possible without the generous partnership and support of the USC Schwarzenegger Institute.