SPPA grads credit degree for success

Christine Trauttmansdorff, Marie Danielle Vachon and Bob Masterson swap SPPA stories at the Sun Life Financial Centre in downtown Ottawa. Susan Hickman Photo

A senior manager for one of Canada’s largest trade associations says Carleton’s master’s program in public policy has given him “three distinct advantages” which benefit him daily.

Bob Masterson, vice-president of the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, graduated from Carleton’s School of Public Policy and Administration (SPPA) in 2002, after enrolling in 1998 as a part-time student. On the eve of the school’s 60th anniversary celebration, he is one of three earlier graduates who reflect on how their university days benefited their careers.

Masterson, 49, says the program gave him valuable insights into the policy development process, insights that “formed an absolute foundation for all the work I have been involved in over the past decade and a half.”

Secondly, the program forced him to hone his critical thinking processes and, finally, to establish a valuable professional network.

“Today’s world,” says Masterson, “is increasingly complex and fast-changing. An absolute skill for today’s leaders is the ability to look at today’s situations and processes, identify where pressures are impacting them, where and how they will be forced to change, and initiate the necessary adjustments … Carleton’s (master’s of public policy) program played an essential role in helping me acquire that ability.”

Marie Danielle Vachon, 52, who graduated in 2004 with a master’s in public policy and administration and who now works at the House of Commons, points to the research and writing skills she acquired at the SPPA, and her studies of a variety of policy areas.

“Writing essays about a variety of policy fields was very good preparation for the writing I have done at work communicating complex ideas and nuanced positions. The experience I gained when I had to distil information into a presentation and communicate it verbally has been very precious.”

Formerly a senior policy advisor for security operations in the Privy Council Office, a deputy principal clerk at the House of Commons, and an acting chief of protocol for Parliament, Vachon currently works for the office of the Chief Technology Officer at the House of Commons.

“Having this front row perspective on things,” adds Vachon, “really means there is no life like it. And I don’t believe it is coincidental that so many of my colleagues have also graduated from the program, as it is a wonderful foundation for the job of a procedural clerk.”

Christine Trauttmansdorff, executive director, corporate strategy and performance at the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), completed her master’s in public administration on a part-time basis over several years, finally earning her degree in 2001.

“It was a networking opportunity for me,” says Trauttmansdorff, who was working as a procedural clerk and later a table officer at the House of Commons during her studies. “Some of the professors were working in the government and it was a magical combination for me of theory and applied that always linked back to what was going on in the federal government.”

Now responsible for working with university researchers seeking funding, Trauttmansdorff says her public administrative background and years in academia allowed her to make the shift from Parliament to SSHRC in 2006.

Carleton’s initial program in public administration in the 1940s was the first of its kind in Canada, and the School of Public Administration, established in 1953, was the country’s first. Maintaining its lead, the SPPA created the first multidisciplinary doctorate in public policy, the first joint master’s degree in sustainable energy, and the first master’s of philanthropy and non-profit leadership.

For more information about the school’s 60th anniversary celebration, visit: http://www.carleton.ca/sppa/60th-anniversary/.

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Susan Hickman

By Susan Hickman

For nearly four decades, journalist Susan Hickman has written about every imaginable subject for sundry newspapers and magazines in Canada and abroad, as well as for CBC TV and CBC Radio. She has also managed various publications, including academic newspapers and technology magazines, and was recently commissioned to write a guide for foreign missions serving in Canada. Currently, she is working on a couple of personal memoirs.

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