Alumnus - Class of 2014

A picture of MPS student John Johnston.

Current position: Policy Advisor, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs
Co-op experience: Organizational Effectiveness Analyst, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs
Academic background: Communication Studies and Performing Arts, St. Lawrence University

Why did you choose Waterloo’s Master of Public Service program?

I chose Waterloo’s Master of Public Service program because I saw it as an excellent opportunity to learn about the Canadian Civil Service in both a classroom and a professional work environment.

Why do you want to work in the public service?

I want to work in the public service because I see it as an extremely rewarding and fulfilling line of work. One of our professors this semester had told us that it is a “noble” career path; that statement really stuck with me throughout the course of the program.

The public service touches and influences every member of this country. Working in the public sector leads you down an exciting, dynamic and fast-paced career path, and all of these different variables serve to present excellent opportunities and experiences all over the country.  Working with public policy is fascinating; it lets you really feel like you are contributing to and shaping civil society. There is no other career that gives you the kind of autonomy and influence that the public service does.

What is your dream public service career?

My dream public service career is to be a Deputy Minister within the province of Ontario. I would love the opportunity to manage a provincial portfolio and influence major policy decisions. It is certainly a position to aspire to work towards; I feel this degree has me set me up well to take this path and to achieve my goals.

What was it like to be a Waterloo MPS student?

Being a MPS student was challenging. The workload was heavy and there were many moments where we, as students, were stretched far within our academic abilities. It was certainly rewarding to be able to complete the first two initial semesters of coursework and to know that we completed a major milestone of the program.

It’s a great atmosphere overall - to be challenged in class and to make such great friends along the way. You learn to appreciate being surrounded by like-minded individuals. Even though there are times when the monotony of the academic schedule catches up with you, the coursework flies by and you are on your co-op term before you know it.

What are your favourite MPS moments?

My favourite MPS moments would be when we were presenting major projects in group settings. Throughout all the different classes, all the projects were very challenging and exciting. It was validating to present work to your peers on salient policy issues, and to stimulate discussion about these topics in class. Getting to work with peers from a variety of different academic backgrounds was really interesting and provided a unique perspective.

As well, I really enjoyed all the events we had as a cohort, as it allowed us to get to know one another outside of the classroom. The end of the year gala was awesome. Everyone had a blast.

What did you learn about yourself in the last nine months?

I learned that I could deliver under pressure. The course load is quite heavy and there were always multiple deadlines approaching. I learned that I could handle multiple priorities and deliver high quality products. This helped prep me for the beginning of my co-op terms.

Once you are able to complete the first two initial semesters of work, you are well prepared to handle what is ahead in your work term. You learn to manage priorities.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in the program?

I would tell someone who is interested in the program to enjoy the entire process, and not to get caught up with grades or objective measures of performance. The program is designed for students to learn through the process of doing. So I would really tell all the incoming students to really focus on the process and not the end result necessarily.

A majority of the course material is very much transferable to the professional work environment. Incoming students need to take advantage of the curriculum and realize they can transfer all of the skills they learn.

What other wisdom do you wish to impart onto others?

Get along with your classmates. This is a professional program, so everyone should act accordingly. Your peers will potentially be your colleagues down the road so you want to build a good rapport with everyone.

Enjoy the process: as hard as it can be, the program it is extremely rewarding and fun. Soak in as much as possible, and try to always remain professional.

You will certainly have an exciting experience learning about Canadian public policy. As well, you will undoubtedly make some lifelong friends along the way. Remember to most importantly have fun along the way and to enjoy what you are doing.

University of Waterloo