As a proud graduate of Dalhousie University (BA ’85, BSW ’87, MPA(M) ’01) I am delighted to have the opportunity to share my perspectives of the MPA(M) program and how the School of Public Administration has shaped and influenced my professional practice and development.
Today, more than ever, I have come to appreciate and value the opportunity I had in 1999. I’ve gained extensively from the MPA(M) program and pleased to see how it has evolved to its leading stature today.
In 1999, I was a member of the first cohort of the Province of Nova Scotia sponsored MPA(M) class. The newly created MPA(M) program was a joint initiative between the Province of Nova Scotia and Dalhousie University that recognized the province’s goal of promoting and investing in advanced learning for its senior ranks. Since graduating, my learning outcomes and observations of the program have held true and remain relevant some twenty years later.
There are three key aspects that I wish to highlight: high-quality learning; benefits of the teaching model; and achieving results.
- A win-win-win learning experience: Dalhousie University is recognized globally as a leading research and teaching institution. As such, I had access to and was taught by some of Canada’s expert public administration researchers and professors whose expertise and knowledge I deeply valued. The program components and course work addressed actual public policy issues and had immediate application. The learning throughout the program was compounded. This was a win-win-win situation for Dalhousie, the province and the student. The knowledge and tools that I gained from the program twenty years ago help me in managing the public policy issues I experience in my current work setting. My journey of experiential learning was shaped by the School of Public Administration and its professors. The two-way feedback and interactions resulted in high quality learning outcomes for me which by extension benefited the Province of Nova Scotia and helped inform enhancements to the program.
- Dynamic “classroom” environment: E-learning and distance learning was emerging in the late 90’s which meant that my learning was primarily face-to-face. Admittedly, this was my preference. For those who were fortunate to have had the privilege of receiving a chalkboard lecture from the highly respected and late Dr. Peter Aucoin – who could easily fill four boards twice over during a two-hour lecture – will never forget the experience which for me was a highlight and an honour. But more importantly, was the climate that was created at the School of Public Administration. The classroom interactions were dynamic. Fellow students, expert speakers and professors alike were often respectfully challenged which added to the learning experience. The networking and team building helped me develop invaluable contacts and lasting partnerships both with Dalhousie faculty and management and senior officials in government which I am grateful for. Today, MPA programs emphasize e-learning supported through classroom intensives and similar outcomes are being accomplished because of Dalhousie’s commitment to the modernization of distance learning models.
- Transferring education into success:The post-graduate credentials and qualifications of the MPA(M) were/are a transferable skillset. I was a practicing social worker during my program and today I’m helping the province build meaningful and impactful government relations in my role of Executive Director with the Department of Intergovernmental Affairs. Undeniably, the MPA(M) was instrumental in my professional development and helped me progress to a senior position in government. But for me, success was measured by my ability to apply the elements of the program in a meaningful way knowing I had also gained the confidence that would help me address challenging issues as they occurred. A positive mindset and a commitment to continuous learning were also key factors in my development.
Over the years, I have promoted the value of the program to other public servants and have had the opportunity to regularly share my experiences with MPA students at the School of Public Administration. I am grateful for my learning experiences at Dalhousie University and fortunate to be able to have the opportunity to give back a little – which I will continue to do.
Albert ‘Buddy’ Walzak is the Executive Director of the Nova Scotia Department of Intergovernmental Affairs. He is responsible for the general administration and operations of the department. He helps lead the coordination and advancement of the province’s interests and works to maintain productive relationships with regional, national and international partners. Through these relationships, he helps advance the province’s economic, government and international objectives.