The degree will equip its graduates with an essential grasp of democratic processes and the institutions through which they are administered. It will cultivate a set of professional skills appropriate to work as a political manager and strategist. It will hone through practice the judgment and reflection of its students, not simply with a view to short-term partisan advantage but in consideration of the best interests of the polity. And it will insist on ethical comportment as a guiding principle at all times, along with respect for those on the other side of a partisan divide.
Its twin goals are to provide an exhilarating and indispensable education for those who will go on to occupy positions of responsibility in Canadian politics, and in so doing to improve the political process for all Canadians.
We thank Clay Riddell for his foresight and generosity in bringing this program into being. And we invite you to join with us in building what promises to be a signature degree program for Carleton University and for Canadian politics.
Everyone complains about politics. At Carleton University, we intend to do something about it.
Whether it is the Green activist in Edmonton bent on making the city more eco-friendly or a Conservative Party staff member in Ottawa devoted to implementing law and order reform, across this country young people are drawn to the cut-and-thrust of politics out of passion and conviction. They serve as staff members to cabinet ministers and elected representatives, managers and strategists for political parties, and political liaison officers for civil society organizations that seek to influence policy and legislative priorities.
But while political staff at all levels wield considerable authority over how Canadians are governed, until now there has been no formal education in their duties and responsibilities available to them in this country, and little in the way of apprenticing or mentoring. A crucial element of the democratic process, therefore, has been left to on-the-job training, with a consequent weakness in the apparatus of governance. Carleton University’s Clayton H. Riddell Masters of Political Management is intended to address this problem.
The Clayton H. Riddell Graduate Program in Political Management is an important first for Canada. Programs in applied political skills and analysis exist at other prestigious post-secondary institutions, including Fordham University in New York City and George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The Riddell program has been explicitly designed to inform and bolster electoral politics and parliamentary democracy in Canada and beyond.
Through a one-year course of study students will focus on the range of skills required for political management.
The Riddell program admits 25 students annually to a five-credit degree designed to be completed in a calendar year of study. There will be four credits of coursework to be completed in the Fall and Winter semesters.
The degree culminates with a 10-week practicum that places students in ministers’ and members’ offices, with party organizations, government relations firms or polling and political marketing companies, or attaches them to particular campaigns, where they will learn by observing and participating, complementing their coursework with practical experience.
Working closely alongside one another throughout the academic year, each cohort will develop professional associations amongst themselves that will stand them in good stead as they enter the world of political practice, no matter that they may be on opposite sides of a partisan divide.
Small classes will allow for intensive study and exploration of issues surrounding all aspects of political management. And while the program is explicitly designed for those who intend to launch careers as staff to elected politicians, it will also be of value to those who may wish to go on to work for organizations and agencies that seek to influence government policy and priorities, whether these be NGOs, public or private sector companies, or grassroots movements.