Interdisciplinary skills for a complex world

Josh Darby MacLellan, MA ‘17 Global Governance, reflects on how his graduate learning experiences prepared him for a career in security intelligence.

Josh Darby MaclellanThe Balsillie School of International Affairs (BSIA) and the MA Global Governance enabled my peers and I to gain exposure to a far broader range of subjects than most University programs. Under the MA umbrella were distinct but interlinked streams, including security and conflict, which was my specialization. 

While my classmates and I pursued our differing interests, we were brought together in core courses which led to lively debates. I studied fascinating topics, like managing nuclear weapons risk and ethnic conflict, whilst the person next to me in our shared office wrote about space colonization. You had international development specialists brushing shoulders with free market economists, forcing us out of echo chambers. This mix was paramount for constructive discussion and development of ideas. BSIA is not an average educational institution – it delivers a genuine, multi-disciplinary experience. 

It's uncanny how the interdisciplinary learning experience at BSIA is mirrored in my career today. I started out as a Threat Intelligence Analyst working on Canada’s physical threat landscape before pivoting into Cyber Threat Intelligence, switching worlds completely. I then moved from a cyber-focused team to a cross-functional Fusion Centre.

My current role involves developing intelligence on physical, cyber, and fraud threats and is as multi-disciplinary as it comes.

Fusion Centres bring a range of teams together to address complex threats that do not fit neatly into one pillar. My current role involves developing intelligence on physical, cyber, and fraud threats and is as multi-disciplinary as it comes. It gets very interesting when a threat actor operates across multiple pillars, such as a cybercriminal who dabbles in fraud, ransomware, and money laundering. The interdisciplinary skills I developed during the MA Global Governance enable me to adapt quickly to career moves and to be effective in multi-disciplinary environments.

Josh Darby MacLellan received the 2020 Emerging Leader award by Canadian Security and the 2020 One to Watch award by IFSEC Global.

About interdisciplinary learning in Arts 

You could say that an Arts degree is by definition interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary. Indeed, it's a core strength of learning in humanities, social sciences and fine, performing and digital arts. Along with the MA and PhD in Global Governance, the Faculty of Arts is home to other programs that are designed and enriched by emphasizing multiple disciplines and their intersections. These include the Bachelor of Global Business and Digital Arts, the Master of Public Service, the Arts First courses for first-year students, and our Global Engagement Seminar which challenges students in all six Waterloo faculties to tackle today's pressing issues.

“If I could redesign the education system from the ground up, it would be based on this cross-disciplinary, project-based learning model that is offered through the Global Engagement Seminar.” 

— David Jones, Executive Producer & Principal Program Manager, Microsoft, BASC 1993, Electrical Engineering, 2019 Jarislowsky Fellow for the Global Engagement Seminar