Late April is a time when courses are winding down. Exams are nearly done, and students are turning their attention to the summer ahead. A new job, graduation, post-school travel and the career that awaits them.

Not so for this year’s cohort of graduates in the Master of Public Policy and Administration (MPPA). On April 17, they began a four-day intensive capstone project course, a course designed to tie together all the strands of their educational experience at Carleton. This year, the course tasked them with proposing a national plan to tackle Canada’s opioid crisis.

Just days earlier, the students received the case – a 30-page document setting the context for the exercise and providing statistics and contrasting views on the causes, consequences and potential solutions for the opioid crisis. They then heard presentations from experts on addictions medicine and mental health, frontline workers, health officers, law enforcement and journalists. One day to prepare a brief was followed by the climax – a public presentation of their proposal to an expert assessor panel comprising Dalton McGuinty (Former Premier of Ontario, 2003-2013, and SPPA Fellow), Saäd Rafi (Deloitte, Deputy Minister of Health and Long Term Care, Ontario 2010-2014, SPPA Distinguished Alumnus, and SPPA Fellow), and Karen Shepherd (Health Canada, Commissioner of Lobbying, 2008-2017, and SPPA Alumni Award winner). The teams, each representing a stakeholder, level of government, or government agency, were finally tasked with reconciling their distinct action ideas to lay out a joint national plan for Canada.

The MPPA capstone video provides a flavour of the event, which SPPA Director Graeme Auld describes as “a key addition to our renewed approach to educating the future leaders of the public service and leaders in the non-profit, business, consulting and other sectors who work with governments.”

“The MPPA capstone experience showcases the relevance of this degree in today’s workplace,” said André Plourde, Dean of the Faculty of Public Affairs. “It equips our graduates with the tools they need to serve as leaders in the public and private sectors.”

This year’s course was taught by Professors Susan Phillips and Marc-André Gagnon. As an expert on pharmaceutical policy, Professor Gagnon provided deep insights into the policy and politics of the opioid crisis. “I thoroughly enjoyed a chance to engage students with the complexities and pressing nature of this issue. My hope is that this experience will inspire some of them to see a career in health policy as something they’ll be even keener to pursue.”

Carleton University views experiential learning as critical to the educational programming it offers. “The School has long been an educational innovator. The capstone course is a further example of how we work to engage our students with experiences that advance their prospect for career success,” explained Professor Phillips.

The course will run again this coming academic year, focusing on a new case that will be revealed to the students a few days before the four-day event in April 2019.