“I study political science….” I respond with reluctance, quite aware of what questions were to follow.
“How are you liking it? Are you thinking of doing the MPIA as well?”
And to be honest, the past couple of years have left me feeling quite ambivalent towards my discipline. Despite quite enjoying my legal or political philosophy classes, among a few others, I often felt out of place.
“Well, there’s a lot I like and some not so much. I mean, I’ve never really felt like I fit in with a lot of my friends in the program because I never wanted to join a political party or anything. I like theory, international law… but I’m not sure what else… Maybe I didn’t explore enough options or something.”
“Have you ever thought about policy? Maybe that would suit you…”
I bit my lip. Studying policy is definitely something I’d been aware of, but not something I quite understood.
– – – – – – Several weeks later – – – – – –
I skim my emails, paying little attention, listening to a voice at the back of my head exclaim, “I’m on holidays, I don’t care”. I notice my European Integration professor had sent out our syllabus for the semester. I glance over it and sigh. Despite being excited for the course, I was left craving variety since having studied the EU while on exchange at SciencesPo. I continue to skim.
Further down the list was an email announcing the introduction of a public policy course with the chair of the Political Science department, Ian Roberge. The course had just been introduced as the result of a student vote between several options, a method I’d never before seen but thoroughly supported. Why, if a department intended to give a new course and couldn’t decide on the topic, shouldn’t student input be taken into account?
– – – – – – Second day of the term – – – – – –
“If you’re still unsure of what you want to take, come check it out. He’s an awesome professor and the chair of the department. How have you never had class with him before?” I was sitting in the GCSU office, groaning about the anxiety of scheduling my final semester at Glendon. After some hesitation, I decided to sit in on the first Public Policy Research seminar with a friend-of-a-friend… just to see what it was all about.
As Prof Roberge explained the syllabus, my worry turned to curiosity to excitement. At the mention of a 1000-word research paper to be done every week, I cringed at first but soon realized it was no more work than any other lecture, it was simply spread out rather than having a 10 000-word paper due all on one day. We would discuss a case study each week related to an issue in policy-making (thus far, topics from post-secondary education, to healthcare, to public bike-sharing programs), choose a topic from a brainstorming session, and get started on our papers, before presenting them the following week with our findings. For me, variety is the spice of any course.
As an added bonus, and much to my surprise and satisfaction, Prof Roberge informed us our exams would be done orally. Yet another practice I’ve never encountered (outside of a language course) at Glendon. I had gotten used to oral exams at SciencesPo, and much preferred them to traditional 3-hour written essays. For me, this was it. I couldn’t think of a course I’d ever taken designed like this one. The workload would take some time to get used to, but in the end, was exactly what I needed.
To finish off the first half of the class, each of the students (there was only about 10 of us) introduced themselves and why they had come. I explained that though I wasn’t enrolled in the class, I was interested in learning more about public policy, and echoed what others had already said: we had no interest in playing party politics. Prof Roberge joked that he was certain I would rush out at the end of class to enrol. No need, I thought. By the time we had finished introductions, I had already enrolled online on my iPod and slipped it back in my pocket as we paused for a break.
“Besides, you can’t officially graduate from Political Science at Glendon without taking a class with me, the department chair!”
One last requirement fulfilled.