Larissa Zacharuk can recall the feeling of uncertainty she had when she was nearing completion of her undergraduate degree.
Throughout her studies, the ways her education could be used in professional fields was a recurring topic of discussion. Most often, though, Zacharuk, who was set to earn a degree in health studies, felt as though any conversation about moving from university into a professional field dealt primarily in hypotheticals; post-university options were spelled out, but far less clear were the next steps necessary to go from campus to career. She didn’t know where to start.
“It was like, ‘Well, I can work my student job that I have right now, but I don’t see myself working in that field in the future. I don’t really know where to start. I could work for an organization, but then what would I really do there?’” Zacharuk said. “It’s all these things. They tell you throughout (my undergraduate) program what you can do with the degree, but aside from that it’s, ‘How do you get there?’ That’s the golden question.”
They tell you throughout (my undergraduate) program what you can do with the degree, but aside from that it’s, ‘How do you get there?’ That’s the golden question.
Reflecting on a conversation she had with a family friend prior to pursuing her undergraduate degree, Zacharuk began to think about the Joint Master of Public Administration offered by The University of Winnipeg’s Department of Political Science and The University of Manitoba’s Department of Political Studies.
The program, spanning two years for full-time students or a maximum of six years for part-time students, provides knowledge of both the theory and the practice of government organizations, including political, economic, social, and other contexts in which they operate.
Initially, the program had been on her radar, but it wasn’t until Zacharuk truly began to question what came next that her focus shifted to applying for the program. And what ultimately intrigued Zacharuk was more than the anecdotal experience of someone in her social circle: it was that Zacharuk saw a way for the Joint Master of Public Administration to pave a way for her to transition from post-secondary to professional life through its built-in Cooperative Education component.
Each student completes two co-op placements spanning 13 weeks apiece.
“That was huge,” Zacharuk said. “It was a no-brainer then.”
And a no-brainer which has been reaffirmed repeatedly. What Zacharuk loves about the program is its real-world application and ways in which she can see her learning carry over to her placement as a policy analyst intern with Manitoba Finance.
In her day-to-day – whether it be cobbling together briefing notes, completing jurisdictional scans, or sitting in on various committee meetings – she’s seeing how her professors’ hands-on approach to learning is benefiting her in professional settings. She’s also quick to note how great an asset professors who are invested in her success beyond the classroom have been.
“Because the work is so applicable to my career, I do send, for instance, a briefing note to a professor a week before it’s due and they’re very receptive to this,” she said. “They will always read it over and make notes. Or if we have to find a policy issue and I’m having trouble finding something online, if I ask the professor, they’ll always send me resources.”
Zacharuk has also benefited from the program’s flexibility. Now in her second year of the program, Zacharuk was technically finished her placement in the summer, but was asked by Manitoba Finance to stay on. The program has been accommodating, allowing her to transition to full-time work and evening studies. Others, meanwhile, have decided to exercise their option to experience a second co-op placement.
As she reflected on how the program has transformed her academic journey, Zacharuk noted how it gave her the one thing she had been searching for when her undergraduate was ending: the all-important proverbial foot in the door.
“It feels good, but more so it’s just a major relief to know I have something,” she said. “My career is started.”
Applications for the 2022-23 Master of Public Administration September intake are open until January 15th 2022.