Everyone complains about politics. At Carleton University, we 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 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, for years there was 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, was 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 was launched in 2011 to address this problem.
The Riddell program is an important first for Canada. Programs in applied political skills and analysis had existed at other prestigious post-secondary institutions, including Fordham University in New York City and George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The Riddell program was explicitly designed to inform and bolster electoral politics and parliamentary democracy in Canada and beyond.
The degree equips graduates with an essential grasp of democratic processes and the institutions through which they are administered. It cultivates a set of professional skills appropriate to work as a political manager and strategist. It hones 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 insists 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.
The Riddell program provides an intensive professional education that prepares its graduates for positions of responsibility and authority in electoral, legislative, and advocacy politics: as political staff to cabinet ministers and elected representatives; strategists and tacticians for political parties; campaign managers and communication advisers; and organizers for civil society agencies and grassroots movements.
We are grateful to the late Clay Riddell for his foresight and generosity in bringing this program into being. And we invite you to join with us in signature degree program for Canadian politics.
Through a one-, two-, or three-year course of study students will focus on the range of skills required for political management.
The Riddell program admits a limited number of students annually to a five-credit degree. The program is designed to be completed full-time in one calendar year of study or part-time in two or three years. Full-time students complete four credits of coursework in the Fall and Winter semesters. Part-time students will usually complete two credits of course work in their first year and another two credits in their second year.
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. Students already working full-time in an appropriate office may be permitted to complete their placement in their current place of employment.
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. The program is explicitly designed for those who intend to launch careers as staff to elected politicians, as well as 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.
“Sound political management, like sound corporate management, leads to good governance. Carleton University’s proximity to Parliament Hill lends itself to be the perfect location for the political management program—very exciting!”
– Bill Knight, former member of Parliament and principal secretary to the Hon. Edward Broadbent
“Sharing experiences and best practices improves our ability to deliver results for Canadians. This master’s program in political management offers a unique opportunity to learn directly from respected practitioners from coast-to-coast.”
– Chris McCluskey, communications Office of Hon. Peter Van Loan Minister of Public Safety