A graduate degree in Political Economy is interdisciplinary and tailored to each student’s unique research interests. All of our alumni are spirited critical thinkers with unique career paths and stories to go with it. Read about a few of their academic journeys below and why they recommend studying with us!
Principal Investigator and Director, Feminist Northern Network
Master of Arts, Political Economy (’99)
Life in Canada’s North can be incredibly hard. Aside from the harsh climate, well-paying jobs are hard to come by and food and shelter is expensive, driving many people into poverty.
According to Jane Stinson, the situation for women in the North can be particularly dire.
“New resource-based jobs for women in the North are usually in cleaning, cooking and office work,” explains Ms. Stinson, a lifelong advocate of women’s rights. “There’s usually a large migrant male population working in the resource industry, which leads to an increased risk of violence towards women and sexual exploitation.”
From 2010 to 2016, Ms. Stinson investigated these issues as the director of the Feminist Northern Network (FemNorthNet), a network of researchers and northern women community leaders that explored how new economic development in northern Canada is changing communities socially, economically and culturally for women and their families.
“The goal was to engage women in three northern communities to talk about changes in their lives and communities and to find different ways, suited to each community, to empower local women and bring forward their concerns,” explains Ms. Stinson.
FemNorthNet, which is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), Status of Women Canada (SWC) and other grants, is part of the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women (CRIAW).
|The Network has involved women in Thompson, Manitoba; Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador; and Labrador West.
“For instance, in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, the women were worried about the loss of access to traditional land that was an important source of berries, hunting and fishing,” says Ms. Stinson. “What we learned is that the women don’t see their experiences individually. Even if they had a job, they were concerned about their community.”
Ms. Stinson earned her master’s degree from the Institute of Political Economy in the midst of a 30-year career working in the national office of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) doing research, member education and staff training. She credits her experience in the program with changing her perception of her work.
“Returning for my master’s degree helped me make sense of my experiences within the union. It provided a theoretical and global context for them,” she recalls. “It also gave me the confidence to undertake large research projects like one on the impact of privatization on hospital workers in British Columbia and eventually to become the project director for FemNorthNet.”
Ms. Stinson’s thesis drew on her union roots: she studied the uneven wage benefits that resulted from Ontario’s pay equity legislation for CUPE Ontario hospital workers.
“It reinforced for me that the only rights you have as an employee are in your collective agreement. I deeply believe unions play a major role in making society a better place,” says Ms. Stinson, who is also investigating the impact of the changing public service on diverse women in another SSHRC-funded CRIAW research project.
Ms. Stinson’s belief in social justice is reflected in her advice for current students as well. “Get involved in your community, get practical experience and study your passion,” she says.
Ms. Stinson is part of Carleton’s prestigious 75 for the 75th campaign, honouring 75 of the Faculty of Public Affairs’ most distinguished alumni for Carleton University’s 75th Anniversary in 2017.
|Professor Daniel Tubb
Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of New Brunswick
Professor Daniel Tubb applied to Carleton University on a whim.
It was by chance that a friend of his applied and so he did as well. But this simple happenstance ended up changing his life path for the better.
As soon as he came to visit Carleton as a potential graduate student, he noticed the sense of community at the Institute of Political Economy.
“Carleton gave a really good first impression,” Tubb says. “I had really good access to faculty in a way that was very compelling and led to a very good graduate experience.”
“It was just a very human experience of people doing critical research through an interdisciplinary program,” he says. “It was something I didn’t see in the other places I applied.”
With the Institute of Political Economy, Tubb found a “community of scholars that are working from different backgrounds but with coherent perspectives.”
And Tubb says it was the community created by the Institute that led him to stay at Carleton for his PhD.
“By the time I’d done my master’s and I was in the PhD program, my community grew. It was no longer just political economy, but it included people who were doing PhDs in political science, geography, or various other disciplines as well as faculty.”
|This was also due to the uniquely interdisciplinary nature of the Institute for Political Economy, which brings together graduate students from diverse academic backgrounds, all with an interest in how political economy fits into their field of study.
These years with the Institute were formative for Tubb, who now works as an assistant professor in the department of anthropology at the University of New Brunswick.
As a master’s student, Tubb’s research focused on urban public policy in Colombia. And with support from his faculty supervisor, Cristina Rojas, Tubb was given the opportunity to do fieldwork as part of his research. This led him to the PhD program, where he focused on gold mining and rural livelihoods, involving nearly two years of fieldwork.
Continuing to pursue his interests in political economy after Carleton, Tubb went on to do a post-doctorate at Yale University on rural capitalism and political economy.
“A lot of those questions and ways of approaching them and ways of thinking about them come out of my graduate education at Carleton and a huge part of that was political economy,” he says.
At the University of New Brunswick, Tubb maintains research interests in Colombia, focusing on economic and environmental anthropology and resource extraction in Colombia and New Brunswick.
As a faculty member himself, Tubb reflects on his time at the Institute of Political Economy and values the importance of community, and the faculty that helped to foster it.
“I think I’ve come to see that as one role that faculty members are supposed to do. You’re supposed to build spaces for students to come together.” he says.
His advice to students interested in the political economy graduate programs is to engage with faculty members.
“I was very intimidated that first semester and didn’t really talk to faculty members,” he says. “I got better at it and things got easier as time went on.”
Senior Program Officer, Women’s Rights and Citizenship Program, International Development Research Centre
Master of Arts, Political Economy (’93)
PhD, Political Science (’98)
When you ask Dr. Navsharan Singh how she came to be a prominent advocate for women’s rights throughout South Asia, she recalls an incident from her childhood in the northern Indian province of Punjab.
“I had a friend on my street who was married when she was 16. Six months into her marriage, she was burned alive for not having a large enough dowry. That trauma had a profound impact on me,” recalls Dr. Singh.
As she matured, Dr. Singh says she wanted to understand what in the region’s history and politics allowed millions of women to fall victim to violence. Rapes, abductions and murders were commonplace during the first partition of the subcontinent in 1947, the second partition in 1971, and in India’s Kashmir and the Northeast. Violence was also commonplace in Sri Lanka.
“I wanted to know,” recalls Dr. Singh, who went on to join women’s rights groups at a local university, “what explained the impunity the perpetrators enjoy – be it the men in uniform or ordinary men in homes and in communities?”
But she says it was her Commonwealth Scholarship, which brought her to Carleton University, that exposed her to the systematic study of the feminist question and ideas that enabled her to challenge the treatment of women in South Asia.
“I came from a small town and a small university, and I was interested in how macro policies affected the people on the ground,” recalls Dr. Singh, who remembers the supportive community of graduate students and professors at Carleton. “While I was at Carleton, gender became the lens for a lot of my work. I’ve focused on questions of women’s rights and rape and violence in conflict zones ever since.”
|“I came from a small town and a small university, and I was interested in how macro policies affected the people on the ground,” recalls Dr. Singh, who remembers the supportive community of graduate students and professors at Carleton. “While I was at Carleton, gender became the lens for a lot of my work. I’ve focused on questions of women’s rights and rape and violence in conflict zones ever since.”
Initially, Dr. Singh considered studying economics, but she switched into the Institute of Political Economy due to its emphasis on field research because “that was where my heart was. I was set on questions that I saw as life and death for women.”
Today, Dr. Singh spends much of her time on research and advocacy for understanding and overcoming women’s marginalization in economy, polity and society. She travels through India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and neighbouring countries documenting and speaking out about the challenges faced by women in South Asia, as a senior program specialist for the International Development Research Centre (IDRC).
“In the work that IDRC supports, we keep asking why we are so immune to what happens to women in South Asia,” says Dr. Singh. “There are gaps in the law in medical practice, in state willingness to apply laws and in social sanctions. Large-scale violence that women endured in the region at the time of conflicts remains a festering wound in the region’s body politic.”
Dr. Singh’s efforts have contributed to bringing positive effects to the lives of women and marginalized people in the region: she works with several women’s research and advocacy NGOs that have successfully created standard operating procedures for police departments dealing with sexual violence in Mumbai; another is campaigning against the 35-day limitation period for reporting a rape in Nepal; and another has created medical protocols for gathering evidence when a rape victim is brought to a hospital.
“Many questions remain and there’s a need to lobby for better policies and changed attitudes. My hands are quite full,” she acknowledges. “But I am hopeful because women in this country are so resilient—even when all odds are stacked against them. They’re fighting for justice and dignity and they have very strong survival instincts.”
Dr. Singh is part of Carleton’s prestigious 75 for the 75th campaign, honouring 75 of the Faculty of Public Affairs’ most distinguished alumni for Carleton University’s 75th Anniversary in 2017.
Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Memorial University
Choose your own adventure with Political Economy…
When Lincoln Addison decided to attend the Institute of Political Economy for his master’s degree, he knew he wanted to do research related to Africa.
But how? He wasn’t sure.
Looking back now, he remembers how the administrator at the Institute, Donna Coghill, helped him find his way.
“She is very exceptional as the administrator,” he says. “She knows everybody and she cares passionately about students.”
It was Coghill who helped Addison find his way to a fieldwork and research opportunity with Professor Blair Rutherford, who would go onto become Addison’s academic supervisor and mentor.
“As a student in political economy, you can choose to work with a whole range of faculty around the university,” Addison explains. “It gives you a lot of flexibility as a graduate student to design your own training.”
|“It’s a big advantage to graduate students,” he adds later.
As an example, Addison worked with Professor Rutherford from anthropology as well as Linda Freeman from political science, and saw the benefit of an interdisciplinary approach.
He says completing his master’s degree at the Institute was foundational for when he later pursued a PhD at Rutgers University.
“My training at the Institute left me exceptionally well prepared for the PhD program at Rutgers. I found myself far ahead of my peers in terms of my knowledge of diverse literatures, and my ability to think critically.”
Since attending the Institute, Addison identifies as a political economist, which he thinks has shaped the way conducts research to this day. As an assistant professor in anthropology at Memorial University, his current work focuses on food systems in Africa and examines questions of labour, power, and gender.
“It’s a different way of looking at the world and I feel like once you are trained in political economy, you can’t really take off that hat anymore.”
When he supervises graduate students at Memorial University, Addison says he sees the impact of his mentors at the Institute of Political Economy.
“I feel like a lot of what I do now is informed by the seminars that I took at Carleton and the interactions that I had with faculty at the MA level, certainly the interactions I had with Blair Rutherford and Linda Freeman,” he says, adding: “The experience working with them, those two individuals, has really shaped me as teacher for sure.”
And for Addison, there is no contest when it comes to other political economy programs.
“If you want extended training in political economy, this is the place to do it. The political economy program at Carleton, it’s the leading program for political economy in North America,” he says.
“I feel like I can say that without sounding controversial.”
Director General, Carbon Pricing Bureau, Environment and Climate Change Canada
Not all roads from a PhD lead to academia.
From your graduate degree, your career path can take you in so many different directions.
At least, that was the case for Judy Meltzer, who found her way from the Institute of Political Economy to the public service.
Meltzer says directly as a result of her graduate degree with the Institute, she was given the opportunity to apply, and was accepted to the Recruitment of Policy Leaders program.
“Without that degree, I wouldn’t have been able to get into that program. I wouldn’t have been able to get into the federal government in that role or at that level,” she says.
Today, Meltzer is the Director General of the Carbon Pricing Bureau within Environment and Climate Change Canada, where she works with her team to develop regulations, and new policies to address climate change, including working with provinces, territories and other stakeholders to implement the federal government’s commitment to put a price on carbon pollution in all jurisdictions in Canada.
| Meltzer completed her PhD in political science with a specialization in political economy and she says it was a great foundation for work in strategic policy.
“I would say the background in political economy is really directly relevant for all kinds of policy work because policy work is underpinned by socio-economic analysis regardless of the topic you look at,” she says.
“The problem solving and critical thinking as well as the ability to critically analyze, read, and write are all important for a successful policy role in the public service.”
She says the program can be valuable to those who want to look at political economy through a broad lens.
“I think it has a lot of relevance for understanding the underpinnings of key issues we face today, whether it’s environment, economic, political, geopolitical. Political economy is a degree that gives you the tools to really be able to have a broad and informed understanding of a wide range of issues.”
For Meltzer, there were two main aspects of the PhD program that made the Institute unique.
First, the cutting edge, contemporary approaches to critical research.
And second, the professors. The faculty at the Institute of Political Economy had expertise in Meltzer’s area of interest and were very supportive both in and out of the classroom.
“Both my supervisor and other supporting faculty were very supportive of not just the academic course work and my dissertation but for participating in conferences and preparing publications,” she says.
Due to the flexible nature of the program and support of her professors, Meltzer was able to publish a chapter of her work from one of her reading courses.
Meltzer’s academic research looked at citizenship and development in Latin America. Although not directly related to her current work on climate change in Canada, she says the skills from her PhD are still invaluable.
“And at the end of the day, I’ll always have it as an important foundation,” she says.
Executive Assistant & Senior Advisor to the Chief Administrative Officer, Cabinet Office, Government of Ontario
Nathan Wynes has, what some might call, an unconventional resume.
After finishing his master’s degree at the Institute of Political Economy, Wynes found work as a plumber for about a year before landing a spot in the Ontario government internship program. Just six months into the program, he started working permanent position as a Policy Advisor before finding his way to the Cabinet Office, where he currently works as an Executive Assistant and Senior Advisor.
Wynes says the skills he learned at the Institute of Political Economy are valuable in any position.
“At Carleton, I had to learn how to think critically, how to problem solve and how to put the information that I had to use,” he says.
Wynes also completed his undergraduate degree at Carleton, so he was already familiar with the Institute of Political Economy when he was looking to do a master’s, but it was the faculty and the focus on critical theory that really drew him in.
“They were so engaging…they had an impact on me and so when I went to apply for my master’s program, I wanted to do political economy,” he says. “There are only a couple of programs in the world that are really geared towards political economy and I don’t think any of them are quite like Carleton’s.”
During his time with the Institute of Political Economy, Wynes focused his research on refugee livelihoods and, through the Institute, had the opportunity to work with the UN High Commission for Refugees in Ottawa during a semester of his degree.
“It was interesting to see how that cog fit into the larger wheel and to put a bit of the real world spin on the research that I was doing,” he says. “That served me well by the time I got to government… So I think that was really valuable.”
The faculty and the opportunities in the program were a major draw, but most of all Wynes says he really enjoyed the smallness of the cohort and the environment at the Institute of Political Economy.
“It was really easy to get to know everyone because you could reasonably fit all those people in a living room.”
Membership Engagement Officer, Canadian Association of University Teachers
“Choose your own adventure.”
That’s how Christina Muehlberger describes her experience at the Institute of Political Economy.
“I really liked how interdisciplinary it is,” she says. “You get to create your own degree.”
The flexibility and openness of the program allows students to look at a topic from many different angles.
This was a perfect fit for Muehlberger’s research at the time, which looked at the effects of neoliberalism on universities and the role of the university in community.
“There was no other program that I could do that research as well as I did,” she says.
Her research ended up taking a path towards critical geography, but Muehlberger didn’t have a background in that field.
|It was the political economy program that allowed her to explore this area, read the literature and think to herself, ‘Oh that really excites me and makes me look at the university in a different way.’’
Muehlberger says she is a big advocate for the Institute and it isn’t just because of the interdisciplinary approach.
“The core courses in political economy are like boot camp in political theory and methodology. You come out with a really strong foundation in those things, which I thought was excellent,” she says.
But there is more to the program than theory. Muehlberger says she appreciates how the Institute has put an emphasis on experiential learning.
Muehlberger’s academic interest in universities led her to a research placement with the Canadian Association of University Teachers through the Institute.
“I think it was a really cool opportunity to show that the research skills I was gaining and the issues I was interested in were really applicable to organizations beyond the university,” she recalls.
It was also a great networking opportunity for Muehlberger, who now works at the organization full-time.
“They knew my name in part because I’d done research for them years ago.”
Now, Muehlberger works as a membership engagement officer with the Canadian Association of University Teachers to help faculty associations across the country better engage their members on campaigns and bargaining.
Still close with the majority of her cohort, Muehlberger says it’s great to see the different career paths her friends and colleagues have taken since completing their master’s with the Institute.
“Watching all of the different roads people take from the program is really cool. We’re all working in very different working environments, on very different issues but you can see us pull out some things we’ve learned every once in awhile,” she says.
See Christina’s End-of-Year interview (2015) as president of the Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) with the Charlatan here
“It was thanks to the theoretical openness and the interdisciplinary nature of the Institute of Political Economy that that transition was such an easy one and I’ve been working in environmental political economy ever since,” he says.
Katz-Rosene says he loves the work he does now because there is never a dull moment.
“Anyone who’s looking at environmental politics or environmental political economy is aware of how dire things are or could be in the near future,” he says.
“But it’s not all doom and gloom. With that challenge comes a real sense of purpose; and it brings meaning to your work.”
For Katz-Rosene, writing a master’s thesis at the Institute of Political Economy was a major step towards an academic career.
“Turning out primary research, interviewing people, turning it into a cohesive package and trying to get a final project out of it, there’s no doubt that was a very formative experience. That was also the case for the collaborative PhD program.”
And he’s not alone.
“All the colleagues from my years at the Institute with whom I keep up with to this day I think would unanimously agree that their involvement in the
Institute helped shape their path,” he says.
His advice to students who are interested in the political economy MA or PhD programs is to keep an open mind.
“My advice would be to keep theoretical and ideological and methodological doors and windows open as much as possible.”