Students learn soft skills from simulation

students role-playing in a poverty simulation

Classes are just one part of the NDSU experience. We have nearly 300 student organizations and offer many activities outside of class that help develop skills that are applicable to your future career.

One annual activity is a simulation focused on poverty. The topic is heavy, but students say it is an engaging way to gain insight that helps them further develop soft skills, such as empathy. Students with a variety of career goals, including future health care professionals, educators, business people and community leaders, participate.

The simulation is similar to game. Over the course of an hour, students work in teams that represent families. Each student plays the role of a family member. Tate Brunelle and Hailey Ingle, for example, were on the same team. Brunelle’s role was to be a grandfather who was raising two grandchildren with his wife. He was unemployed because of a disability. Ingle’s role was to be one of the grandchildren. She played a school-aged child.

The teams are given scenarios, resources and tasks to accomplish in 15 minute increments that represent a week. Their goal is to complete the tasks, such as getting to work on time, buying groceries and paying bills, with the resources they have. Additional obstacles and unexpected situations are thrown into the mix.

As Brunelle and Ingle’s team played their roles and problem-solved to complete their tasks, they found themselves considering actions they normally wouldn’t consider appropriate, such as leaving children home alone. “Really, you could leave us home,” said a team member who played a child. “We just can’t get caught.” They could see how priorities might change when someone is struggling to meet basic needs.

The students had fun role-playing and taking on the challenge of succeeding. But they took the lessons seriously, too, understanding the scenarios came from real people.

Brunelle, a junior majoring in biology from Bismarck, is preparing for a career in dentistry. He works at a local dental clinic and understands he will work with people from all walks of life. He was seeking greater understanding. “I know poverty is happening, and it’s hard to know how to help them,” he said.

Ingle, a senior majoring in nursing from Green Bush, Minnesota, is also preparing for a health care career. For her, the simulation was a way to better understand patients. By the middle of the simulation, she already had take-aways about keeping an open mind, avoiding judgment and being as helpful as possible.

The simulation is just one activity NDSU offers to help students develop into mindful, skilled professionals. Explore student organizations that promote opportunities to practice leadership, teamwork, communication, relationship building and time management.

ndsu students participating in a poverty simulation