Master of Public Service alumna

Kate RyanKate Ryan has long been drawn to education.

At first, she wanted to be a teacher. While studying toward her degree in history at the University of Windsor, she volunteered at her old high school. She soon realized the profession wasn’t for her, but her passion for education remained.

Her former teacher suggested that, instead of teaching, she work to “effect change from the inside.” Kate applied for and was accepted into Waterloo’s Master of Public Service program. A year later, she found her way into the Ontario Ministry of Education.

A class project she completed on the benefits of Full-Day Kindergarten helped her land her first position in the ministry. “The co-op position I was interviewing for happened to be with the branch that was rolling out the capital funding for Full-Day Kindergarten,” she says. “My work on the project allowed me to bring extra knowledge to the interview and demonstrated my interest in the work the branch was doing.”

Kate has never left the ministry. She started as a junior policy analyst, then policy advisor before becoming the Executive Assistant to the Director of the Student Success Policy Branch and then coordinator of the Education Finance Branch.

Today, Kate is the Executive Assistant to the Assistant Deputy Minister of the Financial Policy and Business Division. She provides strategic coordination and advice to the ministry and the division as a whole, which is responsible for the education budget, capital construction and student transportation, among other things. The position involves long hours, but Kate finds it rewarding.

“Education will never go away; it will always be a constant in our society,” she says. “I love that I wake up every day knowing I have a small part to play in the system that shapes so many young lives. To have this type of role is truly humbling.”

One of the projects Kate has enjoyed working on most was the Dual Credits program, which has grown to allow more than 20,000 students a year to earn a college credit while working towards their Ontario secondary school diplomas. The program was targeted to students at risk of dropping out. “These programming opportunities provide students the motivation they need to stay in school and earn their diploma, which was a very rewarding experience,” she says.

The Master of Public Service program helped Kate imagine the many directions her career could go. Still, getting where you want to go takes a lot of hard work, she says.

“Where you end up in government is all about what you put into your role. Be accurate, be on time and be flexible and your work will be recognized,” says Kate.

“Also, never walk away from your desk without a pen and paper. Upper management tends to have their ‘big ideas’ on the fly and you will need to remember what they have directed.”