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Innovative Courses and New Institutions Enrich Glendon’s Master's of Public and International Affairs Program


Glendon’s flagship Master’s of Public and International Affairs (MPIA) program is housed within the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA), Canada’s first such bilingual institution. The GSPIA, in existence since 2006, combines comprehensive bilingualism with a focus on both public and international affairs and seeks to explore the interplay between domestic and global issues.  The result is a unique, high-quality bilingual education whose mandate is preparing its students for leadership roles in public life.

Currently in its second year of offering courses, this elite two-year program continues to attract top students both at home and abroad, whose goal is to become leaders of the future. They choose the Glendon MPIA because it offers a number of advantages and opportunities not found in any other Canadian university. The bilingual reality of the program, as well as of the Glendon campus itself, enables these Master’s students to improve their second-language skills to a level which will equip them fully for their future careers.  

Two courses in the MPIA program are incorporating innovative new elements into their curriculum, designed to complement the more theoretical and conceptual perspectives by providing that all-important practical, real-world experience that students will build on after graduation. In the winter term of 2009, political science professor Francis Garon co-taught a 1st-year course in Public Management with Ian Roberge, another Glendon professor of political science, as a trial run. Their pioneering approach was to present a case study on a single topic, enabling students to address a substantive, real-world issue through in-depth analysis. 

Left: Francis Garon

“It required a huge amount of preparation on our part”, commented Garon. “Ian Roberge, [Executive-in-Residence] Diane Morissette and I put together a series of documents - government reports, legal documents and newspaper articles – for students’ reference. We also produced summaries and background information about the topic, and created a list of reference materials.”

Students had to work individually, yet tackle the same problem, testing their analytical abilities and the extent of their research. The topic of the 2009 case study was the 2008 conflict between Linda Keen, then president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and then federal Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn, who fired her, arguing that she lost the government's confidence over the way she handled the shutdown of a medical isotope-producing nuclear reactor in December 2007.

Right: Diane Morissette

Questions the students addressed included the identification of the major issues in this conflict, the relationship between politics and the administration, and the role of democratic institutions.

The outstanding quality of the students’ work and their enthusiasm for the experience resulted in the development of two new case studies for the current mandatory 1st-year course in Policy Process, taught once again by professor Garon. The first case study focuses on the 1999 War on the Deficit, as announced by then federal Minister of Finance Paul Martin. Students were asked to analyze this strategy on the basis of what they had learned in previous courses about what makes a legitimate policy and how policy-makers can build legitimacy. They were also asked to establish a parallel between the situation in 1999 and the current state of affairs, and to evaluate whether the instruments of the Martin era would apply to the challenges of today.

This year’s other case study examines labour mobility within Canada, from the Ontario perspective, looking at the participants involved and the interests they are attempting to promote.

“The case studies are primarily focused on domestic policy-making”, explained Garon, “with the intention of providing an in-depth understanding of the institutions and processes involved in policy-making. We want students to learn the fundamental theories and concepts of public policies. With such excellent, hard-working students, we are already planning for two more case studies for next year.”

This winter, Glendon sociology professor Françoise Boudreau is teaching another groundbreaking MPIA course, a Capstone seminar. “The seminar’s objective is to provide students who are about to graduate with an opportunity of integrating and applying the knowledge they have acquired in the MPIA program in all of its dimensions: theoretical, methodological, analytical, as well as skill-based and professional”, said Boudreau. “As they engage in the Capstone project, students draw fully upon the multi-faceted and interdisciplinary nature of the program. They also make use of the workplace expertise gained through their internships.”

Right: Françoise Boudreau

The 2010 winter-term Capstone project requires the preparation of an authentic Memorandum to Cabinet (MC), a team effort which culminates in the presentation of each team’s MC to a simulated inter-departmental pre-cabinet meeting of the government chaired by Alex Himelfarb, the Director of the GSPIA.

”The Memorandum to Cabinet is a Minister’s vehicle for proposing a legislative measure to Cabinet and for obtaining its approval. It is thus key to communicating recommendations to Cabinet and its committees and forms the basis for discussions and decisions at the highest level. Having the opportunity to acquire practical experience in producing and presenting MCs equips our students with some of the most important tools they will need in their future work in the public service or elsewhere”, added Boudreau.

Left: Alex Himelfarb

Glendon has a unique advantage in the presence and participation of Executive-in-Residence (Federal Public Service) Diane Morisette, currently at Glendon for a two-year mandate.

“I consider myself as a sort of bridging agent, bringing my government experience to Glendon’s students and faculty, as well as advising government agencies about the types of young professionals they should be seeking. As I have become familiar with Glendon and its mandate, I can also be useful as its ambassador to the government, other institutions and communities at large.”

Morissette has been generous with her time, knowledge, network of connections and academic advice for the newly conceived MPIA courses. She has also been instrumental in finding top-level speakers for the much-praised weekly MPIA symposia, under the title Canada and Its Place in the World, in addition to her open-door policy, making herself available as a resource to students at every level.

MPIA students are enthusiastic about the courses and the highly motivating learning environment provided by faculty and staff at the GSPIA. The School has also attracted other features which greatly enhance students’ learning opportunities. It welcomed Global Brief, Canada’s first international affairs magazine on November 3rd, 2009 to Glendon, and more specifically, to the GSPIA as its new institutional home. The Centre for Global Challenges, another new institution functioning as part of the GSPIA has just launched its inaugural conference on March 24th, 2010.  

Article submitted by Glendon communications officer Marika Kemeny

Published on March 31, 2010