Humanitarian Crisis Simulation

The Humanitarian Crisis Simulation is an immersive learning experience where participants play the role of humanitarian aid workers or volunteer responders in a simulated international humanitarian crisis. Participants learn the foundations of humanitarian response, and apply concepts in the simulation through active teamwork, intense interaction with role-players, and on-the-spot decision-making.

Group being briefed by leaders under a tent

This 48-hour learning experience is relevant to professionals and graduate students of all backgrounds, and aims to prepare learners to work or volunteer in a humanitarian crisis; assess their personal career alignment with humanitarian aid work; and to develop a greater understanding of the refugee experience.


  • Pre-simulation resources and during-simulation skills-stations advance learners' knowledge of: humanitarian standards; humanitarian law and human rights; water, sanitation and hygiene promotion (WASH); food security and nutrition; shelter and settlement; health; rapid assessment of disaster; safety and security; and disaster behavioral health.
  • Learners are divided into interdisciplinary multiple emergency response teams (ERTs) responding to a simulated international humanitarian crisis where they apply skills and knowledge to assess a fictional area experiencing a humanitarian crisis.
  • Each team develops a plan to address the issues present such as infrastructure, health, nutrition, insecurity, and human rights.
  • Participants experience what it is like to live and work in an insecure environment and with living conditions common for professionals working in humanitarian response environments.

Dates & Location

May 17-19, 2019
Hudson, Wisconsin

Instructors & Partners

The Humanitarian Simulation was founded in 2011 and has involved numerous partners and volunteers during its previous 5 offerings. For the 2019 simulation, instructors and planning partners include:


Course Director: Sarah Kesler, MD, CTropMed® – Dr. Kesler is an assistant professor in the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care and Sleep medicine. Dr. Kesler worked regularly with Médecins Sans Frontières between 2005 and 2011. She has experience in managing medical operations in humanitarian crises, as well as epidemics and malnutrition emergencies.

Co-Instructor: Eric James, PhD - Dr. James is the executive director of Field Ready. Dr. James has worked for over 20 years in response to humanitarian emergencies worldwide. He has taught extensively on the issues related to aid, management and policy. He is author of many academic articles and widely used book, Managing Humanitarian Relief: An Operational Guide for NGOs (Second edition, 2017).

Faculty:  Brett Hendel-Paterson, MD- Dr. Hendel Paterson is the director of the University of Minnesota Global Medicine Pathway and a co-director for the University of Minnesota Global Health Course. He is a clinician educator and practices hospital medicine and palliative care at HealthPartners Regions Hospital in St. Paul Minnesota. He also works at the HealthPartners Tropical Medicine and Travel Clinic. 

Planning Partners

University of Minnesota

  • Medical School
  • School of Public Health
  • Center for Global Health and Social Responsibility

Hennepin County Medical Center
Mayo Clinic
Minnesota National Guard



Prior to Simulation weekend

All learners will be required to complete course readings and approximately 5 hours of online lectures.

Friday, May 17

  • 4:00 pm: Check in
  • Introductions and initial briefing
  • Simulation begins

Saturday, May 18

  • Simulation continues
  • Skills stations

Sunday, May 19

  • Simulation continues through mid morning
  • Team proposals
  • Debriefing
  • 4:00 pm: Departure

Additional class sessions and requirements exist for learners seeking academic credit under PubH 6290. See the Academic Credit Tab for details.



This course takes place in an outdoor setting and will be conducted through inclement weather. Students should come prepared to be outdoors for most or all of the simulation. All learners are required to stay overnight for both nights, and remain at camp through the full duration of the simulation. Meals and accommodation are included in your registration.

Participants sleep overnight in unheated cabin without electricity or running water with up to twelve people. Cots are provided, but participants provide their own bedding.

Basic meals (from Friday dinner through Sunday lunch) are provided. Meals are intended to represent a realistic crisis situation and include MREs and grab-and-go options. Vegetarian, vegan options, gluten free options will be available, but we are unable to accommodate complex special meal requests. You are welcome to bring food if you have special dietary concerns.

The simulation grounds and environment will be constructed to simulate a realistic crisis situation. Learners have limited access to electricity, cell phones, and running water. There is no access to shower facilities.

Transportation to the simulation site must be arranged by the student. Camp is approximately 45 minutes from both the University of Minnesota Minneapolis campus and the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. We will help facilitate making connections for carpooling.

What to Bring
A full packing list will be provided upon registration, and includes items such as sleeping bag, flashlight, water bottle, camp chair, layered clothing for varying weather conditions (e.g., rain/snow, sunshine/cloudy, warm/cold).

Cell Phones
Participants will not have access to personal cell phones and during the simulation, but will be able to be contacted in the case of an emergency.

Disability Accommodation
Contact regarding requests for disability accommodation


Who is eligible to attend?

  • Those who are engaged in, or considering a career or volunteer role in humanitarian crisis situations.
  • Those presently working or volunteering with refugees or immigrants.
  • Health professionals such as physicians, nurse practitioners, physician Assistants, nurses, pharmacists, mental health workers, and other health care providers who are considering working as humanitarian aid workers.
  • Non-health professionals such as first responders, teachers, social workers, religious leaders, and program administrators.
  • Graduate and professional students, from any discipline.
  • Upper-level undergraduates may be eligible with instructor permission.


Academic Credit

Academic credit will be available to UMN graduate students under PubH 6290 (1 credit in Spring 2019). It is up to the student to confer with their academic unit to determine if it meets their specific program requirements. Upper-level undergraduates may be eligible with instructor permission. There are additional requirements and processes for students seeking credit:

  • Students planning to register for credit under PubH 6290 will first register for the simulation. There is a fee of $250 for this registration to cover costs associated with the simulation such as accommodation, food, etc.
  • Students will then receive a permission number to register for PubH 6290
  • Requirements for PubH 6290 beyond the expectations for the Simulation participation include:
    • Friday May 3, 2 to 4 pm: Pre-simulation Session with required readings
    • Monday May 20, 5:40 - 7:30 pm: Post-Simulation Session
    • May 29, 2019: Final Paper due


Costs & Registration

Professional Rate
(no academic credit)

Rates go up March 1
Group discounts may be available

Non-credit Student Rate (students, residents)
(no academic credit)

Student Rate for UMN students also registering for academic credit as PubH 6290 (1 credit)
$250 plus tuition for PubH 6290

Fees cover accommodation, food, instructions, and most supplies.


Registration links will be available in January 2019. Participants are required to complete a Risk Waiver and Emergency Contact forms during registration.

Sign up to be notified when Registration is open


Check back for volunteer opportunities.

Sign up to be notified when volunteer registration is open

Related Opportunities

These other opportunities occur on the UMN campus the weeks before/after the simulation, enabling out-of-town participants to bundle multiple training opportunities together during a visit to Minnesota.

In-Person Global Health Course | May 6-31, 2019

This four-week course, hosted by the University of Minnesota Global Medicine, provides intensive training ideal for healthcare providers who serves a global mobile population, such as immigrants, refugees or international travelers. Participants can register by the week, or for the full experience.

Public Health Institute | May 20-June 7, 2019

The Summer Public Health Institute, hosted by the School of Public Health, offers week-long courses for students and practice professionals in public health and related fields. Courses are intensive, highly interactive and application-based with opportunities for field trips, case studies, hands-on labs, and simulations. Interest areas include Global Health, Public Health Practice, and more.