Rob Nicholson, MA

Special Policy Advisor & Executive Assistant, Office of Economic Policy, Ontario Ministry of Finance

What interests and goals led you to graduate studies in economics?

I completed an Honour’s degree in Economics from the University of Waterloo and was very interested in furthering my studies in economics. I knew there was no better place than Waterloo, given my very positive experience with the department of economics throughout my undergraduate studies. The job market was very competitive and I felt that the co-op experience combined with a Master’s degree in economics would give me an edge when I was applying for a job.

What aspect of Waterloo’s economics grad program did you find most outstanding?

Waterloo’s graduate economics program provides an excellent blend of economic theory and real policy issues, i.e. making the connection from textbook to the real world. I learned advanced empirical techniques and developed solid research skills that I continue to use today in my professional career as an economist. Graduates of this program are well equipped with all the skills necessary for success in the public or private sector.

What did you appreciate most about your professors and your supervisor?

My professors were helpful and very approachable. The opportunity to work with and learn from Larry Smith, had a profound effect on me. Larry Smith’s economics 101 and 102 courses, during my first year as an undergraduate student, sparked my interest in economics and confirmed  that I should pursue a career path in this area.

As a graduate student, I was fortunate to work closely with Larry on my research paper and work as his teaching assistant for three consecutive terms. Larry provided all his students with excellent career advice and displayed a genuine interest in helping students achieve success and happiness in their careers. I value the opportunity to have learned from Larry, whom I consider a friend and ongoing mentor.

How did you benefit from the optional co-op work term?

I worked as a co-op student at the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Trade. This proved to be a valuable experience as I gained practical experience in public policy and was able to make networking contacts right across the Ontario Public Service. This co-op experience was key to helping me obtain full-time employment as an economist at the Ontario Ministry of Finance.

How has your graduate education influenced your current job?

I am currently the Executive Assistant and Special Policy Advisor to the Assistant Deputy Minister and Chief Economist of the Office of Economic Policy at the Ontario Ministry of Finance. In this leadership role, I am required to have a strong understanding of economic theory and policy, and to provide advice and analysis on issues impacting Ontario’s economy. My Waterloo economics graduate degree provided me with a solid foundation of economic theory, research and critical analysis skills that have helped me succeed in this position. I will continue to draw upon these same skills in the future and I attribute a great deal of my success to the education that I received at the University of Waterloo.

University of Waterloo