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University of Utah students win national Policy Solutions Challenge in Washington D.C.


(March 23, 2015) —For the second year in a row, a team of University of Utah students has won the national Policy Solutions Challenge USA competition in Washington D.C.

U students Christopher Collard, Gavin Noyes, Tyler Murdock and Liz Larsen earned top honors on Saturday for their multipronged approach to creating policy solutions designed to mitigate the potential for a water crisis in the U.S. The team proposed to increase collaborative regional planning, including the establishment of water markets; to improve investment in watershed programs and to expand urban efficiency and conservation policies.

The team beat out several schools from around the country at the national competition between teams of students studying public policy, public affairs and public administration. The Policy Solutions Challenge culminates after teams work together for several months to research solutions and draft proposals on a specific public policy problem in the U.S. Students present their ideas at regional competitions, where a panel of judges evaluate the solutions based off of students’ research papers and a live 15-minute presentation from the teams. Winners of the regional competitions advance to nationals.

The theme of this year’s Policy Solutions Challenge comes at a time when concern over droughts and a scarcity of water in the future are issues on the minds of many. Supplying an adequate and affordable supply of drinking water to citizens isn’t a quandary limited to Utah: Across the U.S., communities are assessing how to handle what’s emerging as an important public policy question —how to deliver drinking water while balancing a variety of economic, water quality and political considerations in the process.

Solutions proposed by the U students —which earned them the championship title —would help to secure an adequate and affordable water supply at a time when many regions of the U.S. face challenges to freshwater drinking supplies as a result of global climate change, population growth, aging infrastructure, pollution and a variety of other risk factors.

“The students’ victory is a big deal because it shows that we have a quality public policy and public administration programs at our university. Our students are being taught skills to deal with very complex, current problems in our society,” said Cathy Chambless, advisor to the team of U students. “It’s a positive recognition of our students’ skills.”

The experience of participating in the competition was both rewarding and educational, said Larsen, a student in the U’s Executive MPA program.

“It was a really rewarding experience and an honor to represent the U,” said Larsen. “The challenge gave us an opportunity to pull together many of the different concepts we have been concentrating on in our respective public policy and public administration programs and apply them to a current policy issue. “