What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)?
I have been changing programs from my first year at UTSC till recently, my 4th year fall semester. I came to UTSC interested in pursuing a Chemistry co-op program and ever since then, I have shown an interest for programs in biology, psychology, management, environmental science, health studies and political science. As I progressed throughout my undergrad, I was always curious to explore the wide variety of courses UofT offered. Having always been a science student, I decided to use these four years to explore my interests and discover which program I can thrive in. Multiple factors, like academic & personal interests, future career opportunities, professors and academic performance, have contributed to these choices. Ultimately I decided on these program choices, specifically Public Policy co-op, because of the multidisciplinary nature of the program. It encompassed my multiple interests, as it allowed me to take courses in public policy, political science, management, health studies, while also giving me valuable professional experience in the industry.
Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?
The multidisciplinary approach to this program allows you to gain a deep understanding of public policies and government processes, while still being able to study and apply this to your other interest areas. This program equips you with the qualitative and quantitative analytical skills you would need to be successful policy analysts. In my case, it even enabled me to be a successful business analyst. This is in large part due to the great professors in the department and the classroom dynamics, which allow you to actively interact with the professor and other students. You can always count on professors to help you with coursework as well as guide you in your professional aspirations. Another highlight of the program is the co-op option where you have the opportunity to apply your skills and knowledge at great placements, in the public, private or non-profit sectors. Through my 8 month placement at Cancer Care Ontario, a provincial agency under the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, I was able to grow professionally and personally. The exposure I received and network I built made my Public Policy experience truly comprehensive. This is largely attributed to the rigorous Public Policy program and resources offered by the Co-op department and AA&CC. Although the courses and co-op search can be difficult, successfully overcoming these challenges makes a tremendous contribution to your professional and personal growth.
What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?
1) Public Policy is a great program to be in and at an early stage one of the things I would advise is to really use the opportunity to explore your interests. In order to be successful in any program you need to have a passion for what you are studying and have a purpose for studying it. This enables you to thrive in it and be able to face any challenges. The best way to really do this is to push yourself outside of your comfort zone and do the research. This can mean exploring different courses, talking to faculty members about opportunities in public policy, connecting with students who have gone through this program and meeting with representatives from AA&CC and the Co-op department. The key is to really internalize your program choice and ensure what you are studying complements your interests, skills and aspirations.
2) The second piece of advice I would give is to be active on campus. One thing I have always kept consistent throughout my four years is my extracurricular activities, along with seeking out new opportunities. These experiences allow you to meet new people and network. You will find you have a lot in common with them, yet still realize that every UofT student has a unique story to share. As you build your network, you will learn of new opportunities which can only add to your growth. In addition, being involved with clubs and DSAs makes you feel like you are part of a community yet still allow you to stand out. Your extracurricular activities will be just as much of a learning experience as your classes.
3) Have fun! As a 4th year student, I can say how important and memorable your undergraduate experience is. I know it can be stressful and you can often lose direction. It's just as important to take the time out to take care of yourself as it is to work hard in school. This involves managing your time and giving yourself a break when needed. Remember, there is no one path to being successful so always go for the experiences that reflect who you are as an individual.
What will you do with your degree after graduation?
One of the best things about an undergraduate degree, especially one in Public Policy, is that it equips you with the essential skills needed to be successful in any post-grad direction you take. Whether you want to secure employment or study further, all the doors are open for you. Upon graduation, I have a few directions I am considering. Since I continue to work at Cancer Care Ontario on a part-time basis, I may return to the organization on a full time basis after graduation; or find employment in another public sector organization in Toronto. Alternatively, I may take a year off to pursue a public policy internship or social entrepreneurship in India. In the long term, I see myself completing a Masters in Public Policy and/or a Masters in Business Administration. I think one of the key things is to not stress about committing to what you will do after graduation. Continue to explore and gain different experiences!
What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?
My first year at UTSC focused on taking the key courses for the sciences, while also exploring out of the sciences to learn more about management and economics. Outside of academics, I joined clubs and began to socialize and meet new people. I also opted out of the co-op program. By second year, I was more used to university life and had developed good study habits. I continued to take more courses in the sciences and maintain involvement on campus. This was also the year I took courses in the social sciences and started volunteering off campus. As I broadened my exposure, I began to reflect and critically think about my interests and future aspirations. At the end of second year, I made a big change and decided to pursue a Public Policy major and opt back into the co-op program. I was initially hesitant to do so because I didn't know what to expect but it turned out to be one of the best decisions I made. I was able to fully immerse myself into the coursework and gain a better understanding of which direction I wanted to head in. The first half of my third year was spent juggling public policy and science coursework, clubs, volunteering, a part-time job and seeking a co-op placement. The second half was spent at my co-op placement: Cancer Care Ontario. Now being in my fourth year, I recently decided to do another program change and switch from my second Human Biology major to a double minor in Political Science and Biology. The focus of this year has been completing my program requirements and trying to squeeze in as many interesting courses as I can. I also look forward to completing an undergraduate thesis in innovation policy. I am also continuing my involvement with clubs and a part-time position at Cancer Care Ontario. While I look forward to graduating this June, I am also trying to make the most of the last few months of my undergraduate experience. Although my academic journey has had a lot of ups and down, it has been a great memorable experience. The impact it has had on my personal and professional growth is tremendous!