Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?
I had always planned to pursue a graduate degree, but wasn't sure about the right program that would match my interests in international development, research, and writing. After my undergrad, I got the opportunity do a fellowship with Teach for Pakistan and gained firsthand experience in Pakistan's public education system – one of the most urgent development issues facing the country. During this job, I worked directly with underprivileged children and their communities, developing new perspectives on the country’s educational crisis and the associated socio-economic factors. It was alarming to witness the catastrophic impact of the failing policy structure on a daily basis, and I realized the dire need for effective policies to produce transformational development outcomes. I became passionate about pursuing a career in public policy and development, particularly issues related to education, human rights, poverty, and inequity. A graduate degree was a natural step in advancing my understanding of global social and economic issues, and equipping myself with the analytical tools needed to address these challenges.
Why did you decide to study at UBC?
UBC is known globally for its academic excellence, and the MPPGA program seemed promising in helping me develop a solid understanding of complex policy issues, enhancing my analytical skills, and gaining a global perspective. UBC's strong reputation for research, world-class faculty, and my department's expertise and connections with Asia also made the decision to study here quite simple. The desire to experience the natural beauty of the west coast and to be at one of the largest and most beautiful campuses in the country was another major reason!
What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?
UBC's MPPGA program is unique amongst Canadian universities in offering a public policy program with a global focus. My interest in addressing global development issues through a public policy lens drew me to the program. As a resident of Canada originally from a developing country, I was looking for a public policy program with the right blend of Canadian and internationally-focused components, to match my interests in learning about public policy, global development, and Canada's role as an international player. UBC's MPPGA program was distinctive in providing that balance.
What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?
Although not a surprise, I feel mesmerized and fascinated by the natural beauty of Vancouver every day. Another wonderful aspect of my UBC experience is the sense of community and strong friendship amongst the MPPGA students, who are always willing to support and encourage one another.
What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?
I enjoy the practical aspect of the program and the opportunity to work on actual development projects the most. Currently, I am taking an applied survey research course on Canadian businesses in Southeast Asia. Not only am I learning about the theoretical aspects of survey design and analysis, but also working collaboratively with diverse stakeholders, including the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Canada-ASEAN Business Council. For the second year of the program, I am looking forward to the Global Policy Project, which will be a year-long experiential learning opportunity of working with a client and applying the knowledge and the analytical tools we have learned to tackle a real-world policy problem.
What do you see as your biggest challenge(s) in your future career?
The world is becoming increasingly globalized, and the power dynamics are constantly shifting. There is an imminent need to involve developing countries and emerging powers in the policy process. In these changing circumstances, policy professionals will be required to act in a manner that is contextually relevant, interculturally informed, and analyzed through a lens of pluralism. In my opinion, public policy professionals in the near future will need a new set of skills and knowledge to adapt effectively to the changing global system.
How do you feel your program is preparing you for those challenges?
The MPPGA program has a global focus and takes a unique, inter-disciplinary approach to policymaking. Apart from the technical skills, the program puts great emphasis on critical thinking and analyzing ideas from diverse perspectives, as well as hands-on professional experiences through actual projects with clients.
What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?
I believe that my professional experiences at the grassroots level in Pakistan and at the Institute for Canadian Citizenship have greatly contributed to shaping my perspectives. I feel confident in connecting my coursework to real-world examples and critically analyzing ideas based on prior professional experiences. It is invaluable to have had the opportunity to work in practical settings, enhance my academic knowledge, and refine my ideas before entering grad school. My professional experiences have also played a significant role in helping me explore my interests and in defining my career path.
What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?
I enjoy watching tennis, reading about current affairs, and going on walks to explore the beautiful Vancouver. In my spare time, I also enjoy participating in and volunteering at community events.
What advice do you have for new graduate students?
Grad school is an amazing opportunity to explore and develop your areas of interest, as well as to make lifelong friends and lasting professional connections. My advice to new graduate students is to take full advantage of the resources and opportunities available to them. This includes actively engaging in academics, building collaborative relationships with professors and peers, attending talks and campus events, and participating in extracurricular activities.