University of Oregon

Community Service Center

PPPM Students Win Second Place in National Water Policy Challenge

A team of Planning, Public Policy and Management students won the second place award in the 2015 Policy Solutions Challenge Western Regional Competition. The Challenge was hosted by the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, on February 23-26, 2015.

The University of Oregon’s PPPM team addressing this year’s topic consisted of Eli Tome (MCRP), Kate Hammarback (MPA), Amanda D’Souza (MPA), and Alex Macfarlan (MPA). The chosen topic: “Ensuring An Adequate and Affordable Supply of Drinking Water.”

To competitively contend with the topic, the team interviewed water policy experts from Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB), University of Oregon’s Leadership in Sustainability Program, Clean Water Services, and University of Oregon’s Geography Department. After two months of research and data analysis in addition to the generous support and feedback from PPPM faculty, students and friends, the team submitted their recommendations and options for ensuring that individuals and households will have access to affordable drinking water over the next 20 years (2016 to 2035).

Graduate students from public policy programs from across the country compete each year to analyze and propose feasible solutions to complex policy challenges facing the United States and to consider promising solutions at all levels of government. Kate Hammarback, a first year concurrent Master of Public Administration/Master of Business Administration student, appreciated the opportunity to apply her learning to a real-life scenario and felt honored to be a part of the team representing the University of Oregon. “Being part of the PPPM team really stretched my abilities as a researcher, writer, and speaker,” reflects Kate.

The PPPM team presented their recommendations to a panel of water experts. Recommendations included reform to federal laws that would support local water reuse (such as using shower water to water the garden), support for the establishment of water markets across the U.S. (provides opportunities for water resources to be allocated between competing uses) and to increase the efficiency of water use in agriculture (which uses over 80 percent of freshwater in the U.S.!).

Amanda D'Souza, a second year Masters in Public Administration student, found the experience to be a top highlight of her graduate school career. "It was a really unique opportunity to be able to delve into the depths of a policy realm almost none of us were familiar with, and then get feedback from seasoned policy experts about how our recommendations would translate into the real world.

The experience was also fantastic for second year Masters in Public Administration student, Alex Macfarlan. "It is one thing to give a presentation in an academic class setting, but the learning experience is so much more powerful when it involves real issues in a high-pressure public setting presenting to a panel of experts. Although the PPPM team placed second (University of Utah ranked first and University of Southern California third), the team members agree that it was a great learning opportunity and a great bonding experience with fellow students in beautiful Salt Lake City.

Eli Tome, a second year Master of Community and Regional Planning Candidate, noted how refreshing is was to experience the rigor of presenting ideas to a panel of experts and receiving feedback as well as getting a chance to network with other future policy makers in Salt Lake City. “I learned so much throughout this project, and am extremely grateful to have been able to share the experience with fellow PPPM colleagues from different programs and see how much we can accomplish, learn, and grow together."