Alumnus - Class of 2014

Rachel Skinner

Current position: Senior Policy Analyst, Ontario Treasury Board Secretariat 
Co-op position: Policy Assistant, Ministry of Children and Youth Services, Toronto (Government of Ontario)
Academic background: Philosophy, Brock University

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

I chose this program because it looked like the best program out there for what I wanted and needed. I had looked at other programs offered at other universities, but they were not as comprehensive as Waterloo's. This program offers not only a good foundation in policy - an important part of any public service career - but also many other skills that are very important, such as financial and project management skills. These skills are not always recognized as being important in the public service, but they are. The co-op portion also appealed to me, because it can be difficult to get a job without any prior experience, but this program gives you the opportunity to gain that experience.

Why do you want to work in the public service?

The public service offers the opportunity for a diverse and engaging career. I know several people who have had lifetime careers in the public service, and they have found it to be enjoyable and rewarding.  After seeing how much they enjoyed their work and how fulfilling it was, I wanted to be a part of it all, and have that kind of work.

What is your dream public service career?

I have to say that I don't have a dream career in mind. I want to be a part of the public service, and I want to have a good career, one that I enjoy. I suppose that is my dream career, one in which I am good at what I am doing and I enjoy doing it. This does mean that I don't have a definite end goal in mind, but that I want to see where the needs of the public services and my own skills will take me. My goal is to do my best, and perhaps I will live up to my classmates’ expectations and be the next clerk of the privy council!

What was it like to be a Waterloo MPS student?

It is a challenging program. There are lots of new things to learn, and a lot of work to do. However, it was very enjoyable. The professors are all great. They are very interested in helping you learn and want to see you do well. Students will form groups to help each other with difficult material, and there are often little get-togethers just for the fun of it, to relax and forget about being an aspiring public servant for an evening.

What are your favourite MPS moments?

It's hard to pick individual moments as my favourites. It was wonderful to get back tests or papers on subjects that I hadn't known anything before about and realize that I had done well and learned a great deal. I enjoyed helping other students who were struggling with concepts that I knew and understood, and watching them do well on their assignments. The Easter games (egg hunt, guess the number of chocolates) were a lot of fun, and I was thrilled to get a stuffed goose from the Masters of Public Service Association. We had some really great class dinners, both at Allen Square and elsewhere, and we always had fun. Really, the entire program was a great experience, and it is very hard to single out particular moments that were better than the rest.

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

I learned that stress is no big deal. While stress can be helpful at times to spur you to action, it does not have to rule my life. I realized at the end of the first semester that I was spending far too much energy on stress, when that energy could be more productively spent on other things. I needed to change something, to refocus my thinking and my emotions so that stress wouldn't be the killer I could be. So, I brought out my 'weeping yogi'. My 'weeping yogi' is a little carved figure of a yogi, sitting down with his head in his hands. What it did for me was provide a focus, something to help me relegate stress to the appropriate corner of my mind and leave me free to concentrate on what I was doing. It doesn't really matter what you might use for a focus, but I learned that this meditation technique was perfect for me to help me stay on track. My classmates rather liked the little yogi, too.

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

If you're interested in this program, don't worry about what background you come from. I entered this program with a B.A. in Philosophy, and I have done quite well. Try to remember that learning isn't about getting the best grades, it's about gaining something new - new knowledge, new skills - and if you do your best, and enjoy yourself, you will do very well indeed. 

What other wisdom do you wish to impart onto others?

Never stop learning. Once you've finished this program, you will have learned a great deal, and will have a very solid foundation on which to start a career. But once you are in the workforce, you will still be learning. Always remain open to new ideas and ways of doing things, because you never know when you might suddenly need them. All knowledge is valuable.

Oh yeah, and beware of the geese on campus. Let them have their way, and don't argue with them. Trust me.

University of Waterloo