LSU MPA Student Team Wins NASPAA Wildfire Simulation Competition

April 17, 2023

David Burns headshot

                 David Burns

The Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) recently hosted the 2023 Wildfire Simulation Competition via in-person and virtual events over several days. LSU Master of Public Administration (MPA) student David Burns, along with teammates Ismail Ahmed (University of Texas at Arlington), Joshua Blubaugh (University of Texas at Dallas), and Amelia Loken (UA Little Rock), won first place at the University of Texas at Dallas competition held on March 4.

The goal of this simulation competition was to teach players communication and negotiation skills as they implemented collaborative team goals of a joint wildfire mitigation plan for the fictional town of Westmount. In addition, as part of NASPAA's initiative to improve how it embodies diversity, equity, and inclusion as an organization and as an essential part of public service education, NASPAA is working with

Forio, the simulation software company, to incorporate DEI facets of wildfire mitigation and public service decision-making as core elements of the learning experience. We recently spoke with David Burns about his experience participating in this simulation and how he plans to put his MPA into practice after graduation.

NASPAA Wildfire Simulation team

   NASPAA Wildfire Simulation winning team- UT Dallas

1.      How were you chosen to represent LSU in this competition? 

In November 2022, I received an email from the Department of Public Administration seeking the interest of individuals interested in being nominated to participate in the competition. I replied to Dr. Heidelberg with interest since my professional experience included responding to wildfires, and the opportunity to apply my studies obtained from LSU. 

2.      How has your participation in this competition enhanced your MPA experience? 

So far, every course I have taken in the LSU MPA Program has coincided with real-world experiences. For example, the weekend I participated in the Wildfire Simulation was my class’s final week in the 7902 – Public Policy Seminar, and our final group project was completing a policy memo. I feel that the lessons learned in this class helped my simulation team’s success, and I brought the lessons I learned from the simulation to my group’s final project.  

3.      What was your biggest takeaway from this experience? 

The biggest takeaway from this experience was getting the opportunity to work with fellow task force members with different priorities and opinions to collaboratively develop a policy that all stakeholders could support. With the simulation being compressed, it provided a real-world experience to work with a group of policymakers in creating a tangible and rational policy memo. 

4.       What are your post-graduation plans? 

As a part-time student scheduled to graduate in August 2024, my post-graduation plans include continuing to learn from my colleagues and peers and one day becoming a director of emergency management at a county or state level.  


About the Department of Public Administration

The Department of Public Administration at LSU’s E. J. Ourso College of Business offers a 36-hour degree program that emphasizes management, public policy, and financial skills for those leading public agencies, nonprofit and health care organizations, and for-profit organizations that interact with governmental agencies. PA’s faculty members are student-oriented and nationally recognized for their expertise in their fields. For more information, visit or call 225-578-6743.


Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA)

NASPAA or the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration is the global standard in public service education. NASPAA is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) membership association with over 300 institutional member schools at U.S. and non-U.S. universities that award degrees in public administration, public policy, public affairs, non profit, and related fields. NASPAA is the recognized global accreditor of master's degree programs in these fields.