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Dr. Santiago is presented the Award by Rear Admiral James A. Robb, USN (Ret.), President of the National Training and Simulation Association.


Dr. Sofia Santiago!

Winner of the

National Defense Industry Association's National Training and Simulation Association's

Highest Honor for Outstanding Achievement in the development and application of models and simulations for Education and Human Performance.

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National Defense Industry Association's National Training & Simulation Association

The National Defense Industry Association (NDIA) is America’s trusted leader in defense and national security associations.

The National Training and Simulation Association (NTSA) is the affiliate of the NDIA tasked with, among others:

  • Increasing the value of training systems and services provided by industry to government.

  • Informing and educating the legislative policymaking acquisition and regulatory functions of government, including Congress, the Department of Defense (DoD), and other agencies.

  • Acting as a clearing house for business policy, ethics, and practices affecting industry.

About the Award

Each year, NTSA presents awards for outstanding achievement in the development or application of models and simulations.

"The National Training and Simulation Association announced the recipients of its highest honors at NTSA’s flagship Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC) 2022, the world's largest modeling, simulation and training event. The awards were conferred at the Senior Leaders Networking Hour and M&S Awards Dinner held on November 29, 2022 at the Hyatt Regency Orlando Hotel, Florida." (Source.)

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2022 Award Nominees
in the
Education and Human Performance Category

Partial List of Individuals and Organizations Dr. Santiago Competed Against

  • Cognition and Natural Behavior Laboratory, University of Waterloo

  • National Defense University, Center for Applied Strategic Learning (CASL)

  • HQ AF A2/6 - ISR and Cyber Effects Operations

  • Nineteenth Air Force

  • Babcock International

  • Tactical Combat Casualty Care Modernization

  • Defense Health Agency

  • Naval Aviation Training Next 

  • Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

  • Army Game Studio

  • Software, Simulation, Systems Engineering and Integration Directorate (S3I), DEVCOM AvMC


  • U.S. Fleet Forces Command and Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (N13)

  • Rigil and Hampton University 

  • National Defense University, Department of Defense


Nomination for the 2022 NDIA/NTSA Award

by Aaron Conway

Based on my experience as a former Quality Assurance Expert for MEDCoE (U.S. Army Medical Department Center of Excellence) who achieved the Senior Evaluator level awarded by TRADOC (U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command), I nominate Dr. Sofia Santiago for the M&S Award because the innovative methodologies and best practices she designed, developed, and implemented to convert resident to virtual training (which she named “R2V”) allowed MEDCoE to be at the forefront of virtual instruction (VI) within the Armed Forces and was central to Soldier Readiness during COVID.


As background on the creation of R2V: when pandemic training restrictions/lockdowns began in mid 2020, MEDCoE quickly pivoted to VI, but no one really understood how to effectively create and deliver it. As a result, training quality was in danger of being significantly degraded, and everyone knew that a low level of VI prolonged indefinitely would lead to a diminishment of key skills and competencies required by our Soldiers. MEDCoE began a search for a contractor who truly understood the human elements behind effective VI and could train their instructors and instructional designers to understand and apply them too.


We found Dr. Santiago and her company, PATHWAYS, and the tide for MEDCoE was immediately turned.


Understanding of the core motivations also led her to the integration into R2V of gamification techniques that proved overwhelmingly effective at pulling MEDCoE’s instructional staff/leaders into the change movement; true gamification was key to the success we saw at MEDCoE with VI. Dr. Santiago discovered that the MEDCoE’s instructional team responded to the core drive for an Epic Meaning: when they saw that they were doing something greater than themselves and that indeed they were “chosen” to create this training change, they became champions even beyond what they had been asked. In R2V, learners met the “villains of virtual instruction” that they would fight against as a team, and a solidarity and unifying story were spawned. MEDCoE’s instructional team became “Guardians” for the maintenance of good learning, and this responsibility carried a great deal of weight—when one is part of an “elite” force, there is more drive to represent and achieve objectives.

Dr. Sofia Santiago’s work resulted in outstanding accomplishments for MEDCoE: (1) 100% of MEDCoE departments continued needed training in the face of pandemic constraints, (2) MEDCoE achieved the distinction of highest continued training out of the 10 Army Centers of Excellence during the pandemic, (3) MEDCoE saw no decrease in its 30,000/year output of Soldiers ready to do their job, (4) one of MEDCoE’s instructors and an R2V student, MAJ Amanda Cline, competed and won MEDCoE and later TRADOC Instructor of the Year 2021 (Officer) by applying the instructional methodology and best practices she learned from Dr. Santiago.


The impact of Dr. Santiago’s R2V has been profound on multiple levels: at the big-picture level, being able to train and groom Soldiers to effectively perform their jobs despite pandemic restrictions is critical to national security; case in point at the individual level includes the fact that the effectiveness of the training received by Soldiers such as Combat Medics is a matter of life or death for those wounded on the battle field.



Working with MEDCoE leaders and applying human-focused analysis and design, Dr. Santiago challenged the status quo and took appropriate risks to set the example and standard for creative and innovative VI. She went to the grass-roots level to truly understand the various departments’ needs, constraints, insecurities, and reasons why they might want or not want to go virtual and how those factors were impacting the training. This initial deep look into the human elements that were at the crux of the problem led Dr. Santiago to better plan a Change Management strategy that was key to addressing and debunking pervasive myths and poor practices and facilitating acceptance/adoption of new training methodologies.



In addition to the application of gamification motivation and game mechanics, R2V integrated methods of experiential learning, student-agency, microlearning, flipped classroom, and the methodology Dr. Santiago developed for rapidly creating virtual lesson plans applying Gagne’s events of learning, design thinking, behavioral economics, and adult-learning principles. R2V also applied strategies to combat social isolation (all too common during Distance Learning), to foster high-level learning and immerse students in observational learning, which is a powerful process of learning using mirror neurons and copying of behavior. Just as we all have developed our schema for what a face-to-face classroom is and should be, so too R2V learners developed a schema for what a virtual classroom should look and function like and what GOOD virtual instruction is by being in it, experiencing it, and then copying what they saw that worked. (As we all know, “Telling Ain’t Training”, right?)


In the end, MEDCoE was recognized as the leading TRADOC Army Center of Excellence in effective VI, and lessons learned are now being applied so that the Center can proactively plan for future crises and, most importantly, maximize the potential for and benefits of VI for the Army.

Dr. Santiago and the R2V she created deserve recognition, as they represent all the best that NTSA wants to encourage in Education/Human Performance: a flexible, “yes we can” attitude; vision/innovation; employment of human-focused theories and best practices, and a studying of results and continuous evolution of product over time.


Curious yet?

Of course you are!

"If Dr. Santiago and her PATHWAYS Team have done this for the U.S. Army, what can they do for me?"

Let's find out!

Schedule your free, no obligation Discovery Session now!

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