Alumni & Friends - Ways to get involved and give back

Urban Public Policy & Governance: Student Testimonials

Masooma Ali

Majors: City Studies and Public Policy
Minor: Urban Public Policy and Governance

What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)?

I actually began on a completely different path when entering UTSC. Starting off in Political Science I soon figured out it was not for me, I then found Public Policy was a better fit based on my interests and aspirations. Taking a class to complete my degree requirements is what led me to discover City Studies which has shifted my career goals all together. My minor program was introduced a couple of years into my academic career, and since it encompassed the different aspects of the topics I was already learning about between my two majors, I chose to add it on to further my education.

Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like? *

City Studies is based on city building, city governance and community development. The greatest thing about my City Studies classes was not only were we learning theories and historical practices but there is constantly new research and information that is available to us to broaden our knowledge on the topics at hand. There are also many opportunities for experiential learning and field work through diverse course types like seminar and workshop style and even field trip courses which are very helpful for those who find it easier to learn in methods more diverse than just lectures. There are times when you are working directly with the community, helping solve real problems through a variety of methods rather than just sitting in a classroom studying them. What is great about my Public Policy program is that it gives me a second perspective on what I learn in my City Studies classes. Instead of just thinking of one solution to the issues we discuss in class, I am able to grasp a comprehensive understanding, which includes the policy and politics behind the topics. The Urban Public Policy and Governance minor only further confirms that these two majors work really well together.
What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?
Do your research: Don't just read the course calendar to make your decision. Almost every department has open houses which are attended by professors who will be teaching you. Go and talk to them, listen to the presentations and ask questions! Talk to students who have completed AND are currently in the program: The greatest way to do this is through your DSA's which are your Departmental Student Associations. These are students who are elected by their peers in the program to represent their concerns to faculty and the administration. Having been a part of my own DSA, I think it helps to talk to students who are currently in the program because they can give you tips that are relevant to the courses, professors and teachings you will be experiencing first hand. However I think it is also very helpful to talk to students who have completed the program. Ask what their academic path was, see what they are doing and where they are going after graduation in order to understand if their results and feelings towards the program match your goals.

What will you do with your degree after graduation? (Future plans?)

I am currently hoping to pursue a master’s degree in Urban Planning next Fall, to further my education before pursuing a career in City Building.
What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?
My journey was not an easy one. I struggled to find my place and really love what I was learning, and because of that, I was very unmotivated in my first year. Instead of sticking to something that was not for me, I explored other options and ended up finding programs that made me excited to learn. The most important advice I can give and the reason I feel things worked out for me was because I took my time. I find many students worry about sticking to a schedule that they have laid out for themselves for the next 4 years and are pressured to finish in time. Things do not always work out how we want them to, but it is better to focus on the end goal and work towards it than to worry about how long it will take to get there. I also found that getting involved on campus was essential. In my second year I found a work study job on campus, I joined the GCSA, I was involved with research projects with my professors and I was a part of UTSC's official student publication, The Underground. These activities kept me grounded and involved within the UTSC community which only enriched and helped my academics. In my third and fourth years, I looked forward to going to class, I loved what I was learning and my marks reflected that. In my last semester I even had the chance to travel to Japan through my program for a field trip course. Now as a graduate I look back at my time at UTSC very fondly. Like I said it was not easy, but if I am totally honest, I would not change a thing because as student at UTSC, I learned so much both in and out of the classroom.

Danielle Tivoli

Major: Political Science
Minors: Public Law and Urban Public Policy and Governance 

What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)?

Choosing these correlating programs as my point of study was due to knowing what this major and these minors could offer me within my years of study, and the type of diverse, well rounded degree I would have to offer once I graduate. University of Toronto became my first choice not only due to the fantastic name, but the experience of immersing their students directly into public law. The types of courses and vast range of specific forms of law being offered would give myself a versatile and vast amount of information on the topic. This minor would allow for a step forward in being prepared for LSAT's and Law School, and give experience in the school of thought of law. Knowing this would give an advantage in applying for law school and having the experience to do well, choosing this program was a simple choice. When approaching the program advisor about more information and making the change, I was provided with lots of guidance, knowledge of what the courses would entail, and how my studies would look over my 4 year period. Knowing the experience and advantage this program would provide myself for law school, and, even if law school were not to be my choice anymore, the specialization would provide an advantage in a job market, choosing public law as my minor was an easy choice. The staff made this crossover easy and informative. I was pleased with what this program would offer me long-term compared to other minors.

Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?

The highlights of this program are the diverse amount of courses to broaden your study of public law. From Comparative Legal Systems, to Public Policy, to Constitutionalism, these courses provide not only readings and lectures, but entail assignments such as case briefs to provide real world law experience. The professors, such as Alison Braley-Rattai have an immense amount of experience, network and knowledge to provide students in the program. Due to having her as my professor for the bulk of my public law minor courses, she challenges students to critically think and apply knowledge and skills to not just "know" what is taught, but to really absorb and apply the information. Although specifically challenging in order to truly understand and employ the knowledge, the guidance and help provided by this professor, and the wonderful teaching assistants allow for a helping hand every step of the way. This program is academically rigorous to shape the students to be prepared for real life law experiences. Apart from the academic aspect, career planning workshops, forum events, research studies, student conferences, work and study opportunities, and many other types of groups and events are offered exclusively to the small group of academically charged public law students. These opportunities not only provide insight to what future opportunities are to come and help achieve them, but allow for interesting and crucial experience to obtain as a student. Choosing a career path now that I am ending my academic journey is endless and broad, and the paths that I can take are extremely expansive due to the academic and non-academic experience this minor has given to me.

What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?

  1. Take advantage of every academic and non-academic opportunity provided to you as a student in public law. The large amount of clubs, workshops, forums and experiences will not only allow for deeper understanding of politics, law and policy on multiple platforms, but provide out of school experience and contacts to apply. Job and internship opportunities are immense with the opportunities provided. As well, in school opportunities, such as summer placements and courses give advantages that a similar student from another study or institution may not have. The forums provided draw in contacts for your area of study as well, and these contacts can prove as important for jobs and internships for during or after study. Knowing people and networking within your area of study can provide endless opportunities across the globe in your field, and taking part can make the largest difference in your life. Join clubs, make a club and stay active! Public law is extremely diverse and the opportunities are endless...making a club can provide experience and connections with fellow students! Take advantage of everything given to you through being in this program, for all of these can make the largest change in your life.
  2. Be aware of time constraints and use your academic resources. Apart from the large and broad ideas of contacts and job help spoken about in the first tip, when speaking academically, the public law minor requires thought. This minor will provide you with assignments, when completed well, can give an advantage to employers and yourself as a learning experience. Make sure you plan your semesters and courses with your program advisor in advance to manage your time and types of courses. The help with the program advisor is fantastic, so take advantage when planning ahead. As well, make note to work on assignments slowly but surely and truly think and use library and academic sources to help achieve the top grades you want and need. Achieving good grades is difficult in every program, but with planning ahead, planning your time and using sources and help, good grades can be achievable!

What will you do with your degree after graduation? (Future plans?)

Looking forward to after your academic journey is completed and graduation approaches, the future plans with your program can be endless. This program allows for expansion in many streams of politics, ranging from the many types of law itself, policy, international relations, and many more. The most apparent choice will be law itself, due to the immense experience this minor provides, and the glimpse into what specializations you enjoy, to figure out what type of lawyer you may want to be. In order to go further with your law, an LSAT test will have to be administered in order to go into law school. As stated before, the expansion into politics, policy, etc. can be achieved through paid and unpaid internships offered in Ontario, Canada and worldwide, and through masters programs. I myself am looking into writing the LSAT in order to go further into the study of law, and also looking towards internships for job experience to see into what stream interests myself the most in the real world, apart from academics. The fantastic part of this program is that your future plans can be endless, and ranging from more academic experience (which is also ranging and endless), or diving right into the working world of politics and law. This program can provide an advantage in writing difficult tests, such as the LSAT, which is a massive prompt to join this advantageous program.
What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?

In my first academic year, I was not belonging to this minor program. I found this year to be a large learning experience to understand what you enjoy studying, see what you do not enjoy studying, as well as what clubs and extra-curricular activities you may enjoy. I found this an informative year to develop my academic skills immensely and find use in all the resources provided. This year is a huge change where I found myself unsure of my initial program and study, and by second year I was more stable and knowing of what interests me. In my second academic year, I secured my interest in policy, law and politics, and lead a path towards that goal. This year was extremely interesting due to going beyond basic intro courses into seeing all different types of what the program offers. Another important aspect of this year was creating bonds with professors and figuring out what specific forms of study interest myself. This year will feel easier academically, due to knowing what to do in regards of managing time, and using your resources. Joining clubs and attending the events provided allowed for the networking progress to begin, and this is when as a student I started to feel like a part of my program and truly committed and sure of what I enjoyed studying. In my third year, becomes extremely specific and the choices become endless in specificity of what one wants to study. These courses include international law, the Canadian constitution, American politics, law of work, public policy, and many more. This allows for interest in what type of internships or masters programs one may want to explore in the following year to prepare for graduation. As I prepare for my fourth year, I find myself academically prepared due to the experience I have obtained and find myself looking towards what the future may hold. The fourth year is about balancing academics with applying for future programs, taking the LSAT, or looking towards job opportunities, overall, it means planning for the future. Allow this may sound scary, each year's experience with academics and professors allow for these choices to be clear and for you to be prepared for your future in law!