Beverly Leung

Alumnus - Class of 2017

Current position: Senior Policy Advisor, Ontario Ministry of Colleges and Universities 
Co-op position: Research & Insights Analyst, Toronto Transit Commission
Academic background: Global Development & Gender Studies, Queen’s University

Why did you choose Waterloo’s MPS program?

I knew I wanted a career in government policy, but felt barriers in entering the industry as I did not have a strong academic background or extensive work experience. I was looking for a program that would not only equip me with the right skills, but also provide me with relevant work experience. I also learn best through experiential learning, so I was interested in a robust co-op program. Waterloo MPS stood out amongst programs that offered co-op as the work-terms were scheduled consecutively at the end. This allows for the potential of continuous work, which sets up students for success in the job market. I also liked how MPS was a smaller program, and had a strong alumni network.

Tell us about your current co-op position.

I work for the Toronto Transit Commission as a research analyst in the strategy and customer experience department. We are responsible for being the “customer voice” of the organization and seek to improve customer satisfaction. I am responsible for providing research assistance to support evidenced-based policymaking. I design surveys and programs, and analyze data to create reports and presentations. I am exposed to a wide-range of projects, from major performance evaluations such as the quarterly customer satisfaction survey, to smaller projects such as feedback on internal programs.

How did the MPS program, including your co-op experiences prepare you for a career?

I think one of the most valuable aspects of the program was preparing students for working in itself. By frequently using group work, and strong emphasis on leadership, the program prepares its students to build strong relationships in the workplace, utilize their emotional intelligence, and to be able to work with a variety of different personalities.

What are your favourite MPS moments?

Making bonds with the late-night study crew at the MPS space and the friendships in general. Everyone was willing to help each other, which was wonderful. The last minute cram sessions the night before exams were always hilarious, with half the program getting delirious with studying. We also had really interesting class debates on topics that some were extremely passionate about, which gave us lessons on bi-partisanship and interacting with those who you disagree with.

What have you learned about yourself as a result of the program and your career?

I can do anything! Or more specifically, I can do math! I thought math was impossible for me to do, and actively avoided math in my previous studies. When I realized it would be a necessary component of any graduate program I was looking at, I knew eventually I would have to face it. I was really worried about taking the MPS economics and statistics courses, but I put the fear aside and ended up enjoying them. Now as a research analyst, data analysis has become an everyday task. This has made me more open to challenging myself and adventurous in my work, and not limiting myself to only doing things that come easily to me.

What has been your most interesting experience working in the public service?

With a strong background and interest in equity and social policy, I had no idea what to expect at the TTC as public transit was not where I initially imagined myself, nor did I have much knowledge of the sector. The most interesting experience has been seeing how interdependent areas of the public service are, and how social issues underpin everything. Something mundane like the layout of the bus turned into something extremely complex, and involved my background in equity and social justice.

It has also been extremely interesting working for such a critical public service that is a top headline in Toronto at least once a week. You become an ambassador, whether you want to be or not. The TTC has over a million riders a day. You come to realize no matter how small the project is, it has the potential to affect the day-to-day lives of Toronto residents. This is something very unique to the municipal level, and an experience I’m grateful to have had.

What advice do you have for someone interested in taking the MPS program?

Be open-minded and learn. Read the news, take advantage of any resources you have, and talk to people. You have so little time to. Be ready be a team-player and supportive to your classmates, as your relationships will become integral for success in the program.

professional head shot of senior student Beverly Leung