Feb. 20, 2019Print | PDF
Walking into any job fresh out of university can be overwhelming, but for jobs in politics, adding political realities into the mix can be an extra challenge.
That’s why students at Wilfrid Laurier University are being prepared for and exposed to political life early on. Political Science students have the opportunity to work closely with practitioner-in-residence John Milloy, bridging the gap between classroom learning and realities of the workplace. Having hands-on experience outside the classroom allows students to be prepared for what lies ahead.
“We’re enabling students to be prepared for what’s coming around the corner, allowing students to turn theory into practice, bringing real-world information into their university experience and helping them understand political realities,” says Milloy, a former Ontario cabinet minister and legislative assistant to Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.
“It’s great to see what [different careers are] out there – beyond becoming prime minister one day.”
Milloy brings real-world experience and perspective to students. An invaluable resource, Milloy guest lectures about his time at Queen’s Park and Parliament Hill, helps students plan careers and holds mentoring sessions.
Milloy also coordinates Laurier’s Certificate in Practical Politics, a series of six skills-building and hands-on workshops for undergraduate and graduate students. Students complete four workshops over the course of the academic year and the certificate is recognized on their Laurier Experience Record. With direct relevance to the job market, workshops give students skills, context and perspective into the realities of working in politics. Workshop topics have included media relations, evidence-based policy-making, government relations and crisis management. Students also travel to Queen’s Park every year, getting a chance to meet with senior representatives from each political party and attend Question Period.
A common misperception is that political science students become politicians. In truth, few graduates pursue this career path, making the workshops great opportunities for students to learn about different careers in politics, as well as hear different ideas and diverse views first hand.
“The workshops open your eyes to different careers you may not know exist,” says Meaghan Irons, a student in the Master of Applied Politics program. “It’s great to have the opportunity to meet people, talk to them and learn their stories.”
Cat Delaney, also a student in the Master of Applied Politics program, sees tremendous value in the Practical Politics workshops.
“These opportunities provide a different perspective, which has been so beneficial,” says Delaney. “It’s great to see what else is out there – beyond becoming prime minister one day.”
“Combining academic skills with practical experience, both in these workshops and other experiential learning opportunities offered in the program, allows you to bring together some tangible experience.”
A Political Science degree at Laurier is not just a piece of paper. The Certificate in Practical Politics integrates classroom learning with real-world, hands-on experiences.
“Combining academic skills with practical experience, both in these workshops and other experiential learning opportunities offered in the program, allows you to bring together some tangible experience,” says Irons.
Guest speakers are often invited to contribute to the workshops. Milloy recently invited former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty to speak to students about evidence-based policy-making, using climate change as a lens to explore the intentions and realities of policy development.
McGuinty provided students with advice and shared his own experiences. As part of the workshop, students were put in the shoes of decision-makers and policy-makers, creating and sharing their own environmental policy ideas and receiving feedback from the seasoned politician. McGuinty encouraged students who have a fundamental yearning to make a difference to do so through politics.
In addition to adding experience to a resume and learning about career paths, Master of Applied Politics student Dana Chadee sees Laurier’s hands-on approach to learning as something more.
“All of these experiences have helped me learn about myself and what I want to do in the future,” says Chadee. “As I go through each experience, talk to someone or learn something, I feel like I learn more about myself and what path I want to take.”
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