“We’ve done a lot better since last year’s turnout,” was how Hailey Gronquist summed up groups traveling through “Refugee for 50 Minutes: from Syria to Germany.” The simulation is a “gamified” educational presentation hosted by Dr. Khalil “Haji” Dokhanchi’s POLS 175 class. The presentation, held on November 5th, offered UWS students, local K-12 students, and community members the opportunity to glimpse some of the challenges refugees fleeing famine and war face.

The event has been occurring annually the past few years. It increases audience engagement through the rolling of dice as participants go through the exhibit. The dice roll illustrates the many uncontrollable events and complications refugees face as they attempt to find a place of stability.

A major component of the presentation is the opportunity for Dr. Dokhanchi’s students to receive academic service-learning (AS-L) experience. A new addition this year are business-advertising students, like Gronquist, who handled the public relations side of the project. From their effort was the creation of a Facebook page, posters distributed around campus, and a campaign that contacted every social studies teacher within 20 miles of the University of Wisconsin-Superior with invitations to the event.

“We’re trying to gain a better experience about promoting a event… trying to see if the outlets we’ve used so far worked,” said Gronquist.

Another new aspect for the event was the addition of questionnaires given to students as they entered the exhibit, then afterwards signing of a research waiver form.

The research is undertaken by Dr. Dokhanchi to better understand the learning payoffs from participants. Dr. Dokhanchi expressed strong excitement about what the data could reveal about the usage of gamification as an educational tool.

While participants passing through the exhibit are the most obvious contingent learning from the project, the presenters are also actively learning as well. Shantae Golen-Marquardt, who acted as one of the guides for the event, noted one of the big takeaways for her was all the hardships refugees face. “Just as soon as you get somewhere and think you’re going to be safe, another curve ball comes along and you’re displaced yet again.”