Prior to attending Seneca, you completed a degree at Western University. What factors influenced your decision to pursue the Government Relations (GRM) graduate certificate at Seneca?
I always knew that I wanted to pursue post-graduate studies and that a bachelor of arts degree in political science was not going to set me up for a job after undergrad. I knew that post-graduate college programs in the GTA had good placement rates. I had also spoken to one of my mom’s clients who works in government relations who recommended the program. A former classmate from Western also chose to pursue the program. Those recommendations coupled with my own research led me to apply and enrol in the program. I really liked how there was a work-integrated learning (WIL) component and how I could complete the graduate certificate in one year.
What influenced your decision to continue your education after completing your post-graduate certificate?
The pathway into the Political Management program influenced my decision. Not having to take as many classes as a regular master’s student was a motivating plus. Another factor was the fact that I am a dual citizen (Canadian/American), which makes it easier for me to study and work in the U.S. compared to most international students.
How did you learn about the pathway to George Washington University and why did you choose to pursue this option?
I first learned about it through my professor, Joe MacDonald. Seneca organized an on-campus information session with representatives from George Washington University. One of the people presenting was Lawrence Parnell, the Program Co-ordinator and a professor in the Strategic Public Relations program. Although that is not the program I am currently in, hearing more about the program and the benefits of a master’s in D.C. helped sway my decision.
I did a lot of research on my own as well before deciding. I spoke to current and past students – Clifford Yeung being one. He graduated from Seneca’s Public Relations – Corporate Communications program before enrolling at George Washington University. He was able to provide valuable insight into the program and what I could expect being a Canadian in D.C. I also visited the school, received a tour and even sat in on one of the classes to be certain that I was making the right decision.
How would you describe your transition to a master’s program?
Since it’s only been a couple months — I started in late August 2019 and moved at the beginning of August — I’m still in that adjustment stage. Everything is still very new. It was hard at first, moving to a new city and country and not knowing anyone. I do keep busy. I kept my job as a Policy and Programs Analyst at the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON) and now work remotely. Shout out to the GRM program for facilitating my WIL placement at RESCON, which lead to a full-time position.
Working, studying, attending school events and networking has kept me very busy.
How have you enjoyed studying and living in Washington?
I really appreciate that everyone in my program is as politically engaged and informed as I am. Everyone understands the value of elections and voting, which is refreshing and different from what I have experienced in the GTA.
Washington is a clean city and it’s easy to get around and navigate via transit, biking or walking. It’s quieter than Toronto, however. There is a lot to do outdoors and the Smithsonian museums are great. The weather is also amazing, much milder falls and winters.
How would you describe your overall experience at Seneca?
Amazing — the professors’ and instructors’ real-world experience really made the program stand out. The instructors were especially helpful when it came to networking and applying for jobs and I keep in touch with many of them. I keep in touch with many of my classmates. The government relations field is all about relationships, so it’s important to keep up with your network.
How did your Seneca program prepare you for your master’s program? For your current career?
The program really taught me how to write succinctly to get my point across. My learning experience at Seneca provided the foundation for many of the courses I have or will be taking during my master’s program. It also provided perspective and a point of comparison from the Canadian versus American system of lobbying and public affairs.
Do you have any words of advice for students who are currently in the program you graduated from at Seneca and are considering pursuing further education?
I wish I didn’t wait as long as I did to pursue a master’s degree and the Seneca program. If I could do it again, I would have continued my studies immediately after finishing my undergrad program. It’s great that I gained work experience between my graduate certificate and my master’s, but it definitely took me some time to reacclimatize to an academic environment and student life.
If you are considering pursuing further education even the slightest bit, I encourage you to do a lot of research — and do it early on. If possible, visit the school you are considering and speak with people who are doing or have done the program. They will provide you with information you will not find in pamphlets or websites.
Any special tips for students interested in studying outside of Canada?
Plan, plan, plan, plan. Do not underestimate how significant it is to uproot and move to a different country. On the surface, America is very similar to Canada, but one comes to realize how different it really is once you have experienced studying and living there. As with any move, whether it is a new country or a new city, there are certain surprises you might find along the way and things you must adapt to. Planning and preparing in advance always helps. Saving as much money as possible beforehand (if possible) also helps to give you some peace of mind and prepare you for the unexpected.
Lastly, never forget where you came from. Always be proud to be Canadian and represent Canada well. I appreciate Canada and Toronto so much more after living abroad.
What are your plans for the future — short-term and long-term?
Short term: finish the program in D.C. and have at least one work experience in D.C., (ideally an internship for a national association or working on a presidential campaign).
Long term: eventually come back to Toronto and take on a leadership role at an association one day.