College of Arts and Sciences

Policy Incubator Competition

  • Innovative Solutions to Public Policy Challenges

    The Master of Public Administration (MPA) program is committed to educating working professionals for leadership in public service. Through the Policy Incubator Competition, MPA students will apply the practical and theoretical knowledge gained in the program to the public policy challenges currently facing our local and state governments. The goal of this competition is to demonstrate an understanding of key policy problems in our region, and propose new, innovative policy applications to solve them.    

    Policy Incubator 2014

    Policy Incubator Competition 2014 (pictured left to right): MPA Faculty Rich Nafziger with policy judges Dr. Constance Rice, Managing Director at Casey Family Programs, Kim Justice, Policy Analyst at Washington State Budget & Policy Center, and John Collins, MPA Director. MPA alumnus and competition facilitator, Eric Sanders with MPA policy finalists Ezra Basom and Erin Povak, and MPA policy winner Kara Preas. 


    Policy Incubator 2013

    Policy Incubator Competition 2013 (pictured left to right): Policy judges Fred Jarret, Deputy King County Executive and Sally Clark, Seattle City Council President. MPA policy finalist, Eric Sanders, MPA policy winner, Jessica Havens, MPA Director, John Collins, policy judge Tony Lee, Advocacy Director at Solid Ground, MPA Faculty, Rich Nafziger, and MPA policy finalist, Andrew Musson.      

    Rules and Procedures 

    • The competition is open to all current students in the MPA program in the Fall quarter. 
    • Students must submit a three to five page policy paper which identifies a policy challenge currently facing local or state government. 
    • Submissions should clearly explain why the issue is a problem and why it should be addressed by policymakers. Papers must propose a specific, inventive policy change or application to solve the problem.
    • Examples of topics include, but are not limited to: systematic solutions to big problems like homelessness, public transportation, and urban development as well as new applications to day-to-day administrative and policy problems such as increasing voter turnout or improving a neighborhood environment to create a greater sense of pride.
    • Papers are due in January.  Submissions must be turned in via email to Lindsay Ohab, Graduate Program Coordinator at

    Selection of Finalists 

    After all submissions have been received, a committee of faculty members, staff, and friends of Seattle University will read and evaluate the papers.

    • Students will be notified if their paper was selected in February. 
    • No more than five students with the highest rated submissions will present their solutions to a panel of leaders from state and local government
    • Presentations will be 10 minutes in length and followed by a five minute question and answer period (Visual aids are encouraged, but not required). 
    • Students must be able to present their project in-person at the presentation event in order to be an eligible finalist. 

    Finalist Presentations 

    Finalists’ presentations will take place in February. Refreshments will be served and the public is invited to attend.     


    • First Place: $300, recognition on MPA website, and certificate 
    • All other Finalists: $50, recognition on MPA website, and certificate 

    Guidelines for Policy Incubator Competition Submissions    

    1. You will identify a specific policy challenge currently facing local or state government or nonprofits. Submissions should clearly explain why the issue is a problem, why it should be addressed by policymakers, and how you would measure success for the problem for which you are proposing a solution. Papers must propose a specific inventive policy change or application to solve the problem.  

    2. The paper cannot exceed five pages in length, not including the cover page and citations.  

    3. The paper must be double-spaced; 10-12 point font (Arial, Calibri, Times New Roman); 1-inch margins. 

    4.  In-text citations and works cited accurately follow the APA guidelines:

    5. There should be a cover page that provides: 
    • Name
    • Date
    • Title of Paper
    • Abstract or one paragraph summary

    6. On the first line of the abstract, center the word “Abstract” (no bold, formatting, italics, underlining, or quotation marks). On the next line, write a concise summary of the key points of your research (do not indent). Your abstract should contain at least your research topic, the problem, the specific application and its relevance to public policy. You may also include possible implications of your research and future work you see connected with your findings. Your abstract should be between 100 and 200 words.

    7. Your paper should be divided into clear sections with bold faced subtitles for each section.  The sections should include: 

    • Background on the problem  
    • The data and research you reviewed 
    • A review of alternative solutions  
    • A preferred alternative  
    • An example of a very specific application of your preferred solution 

    Access the Policy Incubator Project Submission Form  


  • 2013 Policy Incubator
    Winner and Finalists

    Winner, Jessica Havens

    Finalist, Andrew Musson

    Finalist, Eric Sanders

    Not pictured - Finalist, Melissa Tribelhorn