By Mary Giles

Although they cannot walk across the stage and celebrate in person this fall, 28 students in the Master of Political Management (MPM) program will have their achievements recognized along with fellow Carleton students through a virtual celebration on November 14.

In previous years, the MPM program has celebrated the graduating class at fall convocation, as well as at a pinning ceremony two days before. At this large event on Parliament Hill, students receive silver pins to symbolize the completion of their degree. Afterwards, they celebrate with family, friends and with the program’s enthusiastic alumni, who are always happy to welcome newcomers to the fold. This year, rather than holding the ceremony online, the students have decided to postpone the event until it can be held in person.

Program supervisor Stephen Azzi speaks with former Progressive Conservative prime minister Joe Clark during a class talk in 2015. Photo credit: Hyungcheol (James) Park.

Stephen Azzi, program director and associate professor, is especially proud of the flexibility of this year’s cohort who were able to collaboratively and confidently switch gears mid-program to the online learning environment in March. He says, “The professors and students in the program showed an impressive ability to adapt to changing circumstances and adjust their learning strategies. Their resilience was exceptional.”

While completing the Bachelor of Global and International Studies, Emily Grant had her eye on the MPM as the next step on her path to the federal government. After finishing the program this summer, Grant began working in September as the executive assistant to the Minister of Natural Resources Canada.

“The MPM program has placed me strategically for the future,” Grant says. “While there is a learning curve working in a Minister’s office, I work with fantastic people and get to see firsthand everyday politics at work while demonstrating the skills I gained in the MPM.”

Another graduate, Vida Ebadi, enrolled in the program to learn more about Canada’s political environment. Ebadi is now conducting research in the Prime Minister’s Office reviewing data and focus-group feedback on the pandemic. As an immigrant from Afghanistan, she is especially proud of her new role.

Master of Political Management graduates Emily Grant and Vida Ebadi. Photo courtesy of the MPM program.

The Clayton H. Riddell Graduate Program in Political Management

The Riddell program admits 25 to 30 students each fall who complete the program in 12 months full-time or in two or three years part-time.

The program in the Arthur Kroeger College of Public Affairs is the first of its kind in Canada. Established in 2011, the program offers formal training to future political aides, government relations consultants, communications advisers and pollsters, who would have otherwise had little access to in-class learning, apprenticing or mentorship, but only intense on-the-job training. The program’s mission is to increase the level of ethics and professionalism in Canadian political life.

Professors in the program are accomplished political practitioners. They include directors of policy for past prime ministers, leading pollsters and strategic communicators, some who have run federal campaigns.

Professor Azzi was one of the original core faculty members in the program. He has also been a speechwriter for the Minister of National Defence, a policy analyst, an intelligence officer and an aide to four members of Parliament.

Grant says, “When I entered the program, it was my goal to get some practical experience and learn from the best in the field. The faculty and instructors in the program stand out. Students are taught from people who are living proof of the skills they are teaching. We don’t just learn about theory from textbooks, but from expert experience.”

Assignments in the program are practical. Students learn how to write a memorandum to cabinet and conduct interviews with the media. They also have the chance to visit the House of Commons and Senate. Students are paired with mentors to learn relevant and applicable skills and knowledge.

Each small cohort works together closely throughout the year to develop professional networks among their classmates before they graduate. Working collaboratively and collegially in the classroom also helps students develop skills to argue their diverse political and personal views in a respectful and well-researched way.

“It’s great to be surrounded in the classroom by very smart colleagues,” says Grant. “Our discussions fostered a lot of interesting conversations and back and forth debates, which I really appreciated.”

After the first two terms, students have a chance to put theory to practice by complete a 10-week placement in political offices, party organizations, firms or polling and political marketing companies. Complementing their coursework with practical experience is a great transition to the working world for MPM students.

Extensive Alumni Network

The MPM program prepares its graduates for positions in electoral, legislative and advocacy politics. Students go on to be leaders in political offices, parties, NGOs, or firms that specialize in government relations, communications or public opinion research.

In only 9 years, the small program already boasts a large and impressive network of professional alumni who are diplomats, senior analysts and strategists, consultants, advisors, relations managers, executive and legislative assistants, lawyers, managers and directors.

“The alumni network that graduates enter into is fantastic,” says Grant. “There are so many alumni across Canada and internationally who share their experiences. Now that I’ve graduated, I often interact with alumni as well as colleagues from my cohort.”

Marisa Maslink, who graduated from the program in 2019, is a principal at McMillan Vantage Policy Group. She leads impactful strategic and political communications and public relations programs across various industries and sectors.

The graduates of the MPM program continue to contribute to constructive, informed politics and policy decisions. We wish the graduating class of 2020 much success and we look forward to hearing about their future endeavours.

Thursday, November 12, 2020 in ,
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