Working towards a better future: a public service student’s journey

Stephanie Davis standing in front of staircase smiling with two of her edited avatars on either sideStephanie Davis (she/her) is a Master of Public Service student in her second year. Co-operative and Experiential Education is recognizing her as the Faculty of Arts Co-op Student of the Year for her remarkable work at the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs. Stephanie discusses her determination to make a difference and how it led to her making great strides in her co-op role.

Stephanie Davis headshot

At the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs, Stephanie’s role was research based, with the focus always being the good of the public.

She worked on case files involving the justice system and missing and murdered Indigenous women, which added a new layer of knowledge to her repertoire.

Taking every opportunity that came her way, she demonstrated leadership skills by offering training to new staff and reaching out to students who might need help.

She also liaised with other departments and ministries, designed presentation decks and went above and beyond by implementing new practices that support an inclusive and accessible work environment.

“This was to help shape policies and programs to work towards a better future for the communities affected by these issues.”


What was it like, being tasked with so much responsibility? 

“It was definitely heavy. However, it was a big aspiration of mine to work at the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs. Walking the path of truth and reconciliation is something I strive to do in my everyday life. Being able to take that into a professional environment was important to me, to feel like I'm doing the work and my part as a treaty person. It was a big personal goal of mine. Although it felt like a great responsibility, it was one that I was very privileged to be able to take on.”

What aspect of this role interested you the most?

“As someone who took Indigenous Studies courses in my undergrad, along with various kinds of theoretical courses on Indigenous law, it was wonderful to be able to bridge that into a professional environment. So, it was great to actually be able to apply what I learned in school to work in a job where my background knowledge exactly matched requirements and what I needed to do in terms of the deliverables.”

Describe the impact of the mentorship you received.

“I worked within a very small team. So, I got to know everybody intimately. There are a lot of new folks that came in during my co-op, and some folks left as well. The team was quite small at the beginning, just nine of us, all women. Being able to work in such a close-knit team was a really great experience for me - I felt encouraged. I could ask them the tough questions about working in public services as a woman.”

“It was also a great opportunity to get to know my two team leaders better. They helped me a lot in terms of asking me what my interests were and discerning how I wanted to put that knowledge into action. We had a lot of opportunities to work with other ministries on their projects and initiatives intersecting with Indigenous issues, along with a lot of internal work.”

“They really helped me learn what I like to do, what my strengths are at work and what are some areas of government work that I hadn't had a chance to work in yet. They were really good at exposing me to opportunities that I might like to pursue in the future. The policy world is really broad and given that I'm at the beginning of my career, it was excellent to learn from two very experienced managers in the public service.”

How does it feel to stand out amongst all the Arts co-op students and win the Co-op Student of the Year Award?

“It feels wonderful to be recognized. I'm very grateful to my manager, Laura Blease, for nominating me, for my eight months at the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs. For Master of Public Service students, our classes aren't on main campus. We have a lot of older students and students who didn't go to Waterloo for their undergrad. So, we're a new flock of people that come to campus every year. We also stick out a bit because we're an Arts master's program. I do feel like I get to represent the program and the cohort. Waterloo is a very STEM oriented school, but we have a lot of wonderful public servants that have come out of this program. I'm happy to hopefully make them proud.”

What do you like about public service?

“Public service, for me, means doing our best for the public, whether it's your team or your division, your ministry or your institution. Supporting the public good and presenting evidence-based materials to help folks in the political world make the best educated decisions to help the public. Representation is also important. As a student with a disability, it's important that there's people like me in the public service making decisions, so that we are being equitable.”

“I'm non-Indigenous, so I don't want to go deep on the history, because that's not my place to share. However, as a settler on Indigenous land, I viewed public service as being one of the many avenues to pursue necessary duties and do better by the people of this land, as well as to live out that Two Row Wampum relationship. My definition of public service and why I'm here is to advocate for change, to push change through what can be sometimes a big, nebulous system. Personally, I wanted to bring my perspectives and my lived experiences to the table as well.”

What’s next for you?

“I have four months before I’m done with my program and I will be wrapping up a large research project and coming back to Waterloo in April to present it to the faculty and some guest panelists, which I'm very excited about. I'm also working at the Ministry of Transportation currently, which is the role I was offered after co-op. So, I'm still in the Ontario Public Service and will likely remain there, as I've met some really wonderful people.”

“A big perk of working in the public service is getting to jump between different ministries and different opportunities. I would be interested in exploring roles in different ministries. I'm also open to going back to the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs.”

“I'm a lifelong learner and will always continue my learning personally, even when I'm not in school.”

Stephanie Davis smiling headshot in front of an orange background


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