Nov. 1, 2017

Capstone Symposium connects students, alumni and industry

School of Public Policy links students, grads around key educational prerequisite
Daniel Lai, MPP'12, moderated the capstone panel that followed the event involving a Q & A between program alumni and new students.

Daniel Lai, MPP'12, moderated the capstone panel that followed the event.

School of Public Policy

The School of Public Policy (SPP) held its third annual Master of Public Policy (MPP) Capstone Symposium on Oct. 4, with more than 60 business, government, not-for-profit organizations and MPP alumni from across Alberta attending.

Participants connected with new and graduating students, the latter of whom presented research-based capstone findings across an array of public policy areas. New students had a first-hand opportunity to understand the relevance of the MPP degree.

The symposium is a key part of SPP’s commitment to engage students through generating links between all MPP students and alumni, and industry representatives. One of this year’s Capstone Symposium presenters was Andrea Boras, who now works as a market analyst at the National Energy Board. She discussed the extent to which a pan-Canadian carbon pricing policy may affect Alberta oilsands competitiveness in the North American market.

“The Capstone Symposium gave me the opportunity to present my own research to industry representatives, current students, and previous graduates,” says Boras. “The event allowed me to provide incoming students a window into my research and share my project with them as they begin to conceive their own capstone initiatives, which will be increasingly attractive to a range of employers.”

Christine Collins, vice-president of human resources at the Canada West Foundation, says, “SPP students have the tools to understand how to do the quantitative and qualitative analyses to identify potential issues and look for alternative solutions, and they have the all-important critical thinking background. The best test regarding how the Master of Public Policy is regarded is the fact that we have hired numerous graduates from the school.”

A wide range of business, government and not-for-profit organizations from across Alberta joined current students and program alumni for The School of Public Policy’s third annual Capstone Symposium.

A wide range of business, government and not-for-profit organizations joined the Capstone Symposium.

Creating an enjoyable graduate student experience

Following the symposium, a panel of MPP alumni shared tips about capstone topic selection, building relationships with faculty and industry, and overcoming obstacles — all fundamental components that help create a productive and gratifying graduate student experience.

Salimah Kassam, MPP'13, who is employed at United Way Calgary and Area as an innovation and incubation strategist, says, "It is very valuable to come back to the school as someone who has gone through the program to hear students discuss what topics and research they wish to bring to policy discussions throughout the city and across the province."

Incoming MPP student Neuczki Mathurin says, “This day provided us an opportunity to learn about what previous capstones were all about and what we can expect as we begin the capstone process. The opportunity to connect with numerous alumni and employers was very invigorating and was one of the main reasons why I chose to attend SPP.”

Setting the scene to enliven a program

Geoff Webb, SPP’s senior advisor, conceived of the Capstone Symposium soon after joining SPP as the price of oil was crashing in 2015. The need for new and innovative forums able to bring together a range of groups was paramount. The MPP capstone is an academic requirement every student has to fulfil to complete the MPP program.

SPP Capstone Symposium 2017

“Linking students and graduates around a key educational prerequisite is a great way to create significant professional relationships that enliven a program," says Webb. “It is increasingly recognized that alumni are much more likely to donate their time, insights and resources to the program from which they graduated if they are provided the impetus to do so while they are still in school.”  

Alumni regularly return to campus to speak with students about topics including generating and sustaining professional contacts, the dynamics of their jobs, and how graduates keep their skills current in an increasingly turbulent employment market. 

What are we doing next?

In the fall of 2015, the MPP program began a student-alumni mentorship initiative. No other Canadian MPP or MPA program offers such an undertaking, particularly one that involves an MPP Alumni Council (MPPAC) whose guidance enhances the mentorship experience. 

At the MPP graduation and awards event in mid-November, the MPPAC will hand out awards for the top three capstones completed during the previous academic year. The previous top capstone award winner, Nicole Williams, currently working as an assessment and evaluation specialist at the Elizabeth Fry Society, serves as a mentor and regularly participates in alumni-led professional development events.

Hussein Warsame, MPP program director, says, “Alumni involvement across the MPP degree does much to strengthen the school and helps ensure we deliver a balanced education concerning matters of public policy.” Learn more about the MPP Program at The School of Public Policy.