Humanitarian Simulation

Banner 2

The Humanitarian Crisis Simulation, founded in 2011, is a collaborative program led by faculty in the University of Minnesota Medical School, the School of Public Health, and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. The program trains prospective humanitarian aid workers through an annual 3 day learning experience. The experience is relevant for professionals of all backgrounds who are interested in pursuing a career as a humanitarian aid worker, as well as professionals who work with refugees and immigrants in the United States. The experience immerses participants in an environment typical of humanitarian crises. The experience will equip participants with knowledge, experience and skills that will assist them in working in any humanitarian crisis, as well as knowledge of what life is like for humanitarian aid workers and refugees. The Humanitarian Crisis Simulation may also be taken for credit through an accompanying 1 credit in the School of Public Health or Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

The first portion of the course consists of interactive sessions that provide an overview of the field of humanitarian aid work. Participants are then divided into interdisciplinary teams representing multiple emergency response teams (ERTs). ERT must apply their skills and knowledge to assess a fictional area experiencing a humanitarian crisis. Teams are expected to develop a plan to address the many problems of the region, including malnutrition, poor infrastructure, insecurity and violations of human rights. ERTs will experience living conditions that are common for professionals working in these conditions.

The exercise is developed and administered by professionals with extensive experience in humanitarian crisis management. We draw on content developed by organizations such as the Sphere Project, ALNAP, and the Core Humanitarian Standard as a framework for material covered in the simulation. The Humanitarian Simulation places a special emphasis on managing the medical aspects of humanitarian crises, although the material is relevant for medical and non medical professionals alike.

Intended Audience

Who should attend
  • Adult professionals who are engaged in, or considering a career in humanitarianism.
  • Adult professionals and citizens who are presently working with refugees or immigrants
  • Physicians, Nurse Practitioners, Physician Assistants, Nurses, Pharmacists and other health care providers who are considering working as humanitarian aid workers
  • University of Minnesota graduate and professional students
Participants will gain
  • Knowledge of fundamental principles, minimum standards and best practices in Humanitarian Aid
  • Opportunities to apply their professional skills and knowledge in a realistic scenario
  • Opportunities to engage with other professionals involved in humanitarian aid
  • A better understanding of the experience of a humanitarian aid worker as well as a better understanding of the kinds of experiences refugees may have had before coming to the United States

Participant Information

Risk Waiver

Participants are required to complete a Risk Waiver and Emergency Contact form in advance of the activities. These forms will be provided to you after registration.


All meals will be provided and are intended to represent a realistic crisis situation. Therefore, we are unable to accommodate special meal requests. You are welcome to bring food if you have special dietary concerns, but please note that refrigeration is not available.


There is minimal access to electricity; cell phone coverage is limited and inconsistent. Group cabins are available with cots. Participants may also sleep in tents if they wish to bring their own. There is no running water. Pit toilets and well pumps are available at various locations within the park.

Things to Bring
  • Water bottle (there is a well for refills)
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellant
  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag or other bedding
  • Pillow
  • Flashlight or headlamp with extra batteries
  • Writing materials - pens, pencils
  • Camp chair
  • Layered clothing for varying weather conditions (ex. rain/snow, sunshine/cloudy, warm/cold)

Registration, Course Fees & Accreditation


$2200 - Includes CME credit

$1800 - No CME credit

Graduate Students: - Fees determined by the school or college

Fees includes course materials, two nights camping and all meals. The Humanitarian Simulation is a self funded program and all participants are required to pay a registration fee. If you are interested in group pricing please contact


Accreditation Statement

The University of Minnesota is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

American Medical Association (AMA) Credit Designation Statement

The University of Minnesota designates this live activity for a maximum of 26.5 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

Course Faculty

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 FieldReady. Dr. James has worked for over 15 years on humanitarian emergencies. He is author of many academic articles and widely used book, Managing Humanitarian Relief: An Operational Guide for NGOs (2008).

Co-Instructor: Bill Stauffer, MD, MSPH, CTropMed® - Dr. Stauffer is a Professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious diseases. He is an expert in travel and tropical medicine. He serves as technical advisor to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) where he works on issues of human mobility and human health. He has worked extensively overseas in clinical medicine and in public health.

Course Date

May 17-19, 2019

Contact and Volunteer Information

Please contact with general questions about the course.

If you would like to volunteer please contact

Join us on Facebook to stay up to date on volunteer opportunities.

Credits Available

2016: 26.5

2018: Pending

Featured in the news

StarTribune featured the course in the article "Mock refugee crisis trains next generation of humanitarians"

Planning Partners

University of Minnesota
      Medical School
      School of Public Health
      School of Architecture
      Humphrey School of Public Affairs
Hennepin County Medical Center
Mayo Clinic
Minnesota National Guard
Case Western Reserve
New American Alliance for Development
Minnesota International NGO Network 
American Red Cross
American Refugee Committee

Course Photos

Humanitarian Simulation Crisis Collage