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.
Here are a few of them…
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
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“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.”