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Fall 2017 (3B) Term Summary

December 26th, 2017

It's been quite a while since I've last posted so I thought I'd catch up here on what's been happening this term. 

Before that though, I'll quickly talk about my Co-op term these past 8 months at the Ontario Treasury Board Secretariat. I think that this year was really the year in which I started to get a much clearer path on what I wanted to do when I graduate. Having been exposed to working in a policy and research role within the public sector, I realized that this type of job was something that I was very interested in and wanted to continue doing. For more information on the tasks that I did during this Co-op term, you can go ahead check out the Work Experience tab. 

With that being said, my original path on going to Law School seems much less likely now. Having talked to a couple of lawyers and seeking advice, I feel that working in the future within corporate law isn't something I would be interested in doing. From now on, I've shifted my career and academic path to focus more on public sector analysis rather than Law. I've already looked at a couple of graduate programs that I'd be interested in, but I haven't yet been dead set on one.

Anyways, I'll probably talk about my decision to move away from Law more in another post, but for now I'll focus on talking about the courses I took. As usual, I'll be including a description of the course content, along with my opinion of both the course and the professor.  I also like to include the grade I received in the course, to give you guys a picture of the difficulty level in case you're wondering about whether or not you should take the course.  

Classes 

I took 4 PSCI classes this term, as well as a statistics course for the social sciences. I actually initially took a 6th course in Planning, but ended up dropping in in the second week as it didn't add anything to my academics and was draining more of my time away from other priorities. 

PSCI 360 - Provincial Politics

Having worked my previous Co-op term within the provincial government, I felt that this course was an excellent supplement to learning more about the provinces of Canada and how they function in greater depth. This course was structured to be half lecture and half a seminar. For the first half of the course, we covered the evolution of provincial powers, current issues in the provinces, and also a bit on confederation and present day federal-provincial relations.  The second half of the course was seminar based, and each week a different group of students gave presentations on various aspects of the different provinces, and then invited discussions among the class. The content for this course was quite interesting, especially in the second half of this class where the students took over the teaching. We were evaluated on weekly reading responses, a midterm, the group presentation, and also a final research paper, of which you could choose any related topic you wished. I had professor Emmett MacFarlane again for this course and found that his style of teaching in 360 was much better than in PSCI 363, which was very lecture and content heavy. His marking was as usual tougher than what I was used to, but I still managed to finish off with a decent mark of 85%. 

PSCI 428 - The State and Economic Life

After reading the syllabus for this course online, I became interested in taking this course as it was focused on two topics that were very important to me: poverty and climate change. This course also had a strong focus on public policy, which was also a big plus as I was more oriented towards policy versus political theory. Even thought I was still a third year student at the time, the professor, Angela Carter, was kind enough to enroll me into the course anyways. Because this was a fourth year seminar course, much of the content was given through readings, with the class time being reserved for discussions and research workshops. We focused mainly on theories of economic growth and climate change, as well as on poverty in Canada and how it is influenced by climate change. The professor, Angela Carter, was an excellent professor to be with. She focused on turning the class into something that students could run and take charge in, which is very suitable for a fourth year seminar course. We were evaluated on participation, weekly reading responses, a short analysis, and a longer final research paper. At times, this course was quite heavy as the weekly reading responses were required for each reading, which sometimes took up to 1500 words of writing a week. However, I still ended up with a final grade of 90% due to the generous  "completion-based" grading policies for participation and reading responses, as well as a good performance on the final paper. 

PO 263A (Laurier) - Introduction to Canadian Politics

This course was actually taken at the University beside us (Wilfrid Laurier) due to some scheduling conflicts with the University of Waterloo. For my Public Policy & Administration Specialization, I was required to take a 200-level introductory course in Canadian Politics, which I hadn't done yet despite already being in third year and taking more advanced courses regarding Canadian Politics. However, because it was absolutely required, I had to cross-register into this course. The course content itself was pretty much what you'd expect from a Canadian Politics course. It provided a wide survey of topics such as confederation, federalism, the judiciary, the legislature, electoral systems, political parties, and public policy. Most these topics were quite familiar already, so much of the course was a breeze to go through. The professor, Karen Lochead, was quite kind in person and gave out some bonus questions on tests that specifically rewarded students who attended class. I didn't get to know her much as this course was mainly lecture based, but I did find that her marking was quite strict on the two opinion papers we had to submit. I normally get at least in the 80s if not the high 80s for my papers, but I could never break above 80% for her papers. i found that odd as they appeared simple enough to write and I put in some quality work on them. However, the tests were objective in nature and I scored high 90s on both of them, giving me a final grade of 88%. 

ARTS 280 - Statistics for Arts Students 

I took this course specifically in Fall because the professor teaching it at the time uses SPSS for most of the course. Out of all the courses I took this term, this was probably the most useful as it taught me a wide range of data analysis techniques that would be very useful on the job. The course itself focused on using SPSS to analyze socioeconomic data sets. We were taught when to and how to conduct statistical tests including normality tests, t-tests, ANOVA, chi-square, and regression analysis. In addition, we ere taught on how to interpret the results that came out. The professor, Owen Gallupe, was a really great guy. He was able to maintain class interest through using data sets that were interesting and also provided excellent study material and practice questions for the tests. The evaluation consisted of 2 midterms, 2 assignments, and a final exam. The assignments were mark boosters for the whole class. They were very straightforward and the class assignment average was somewhere in the high 80s. The tests were also quite easy, as long as you did the practice questions that were provided. There were no overly complex or surprise questions I encountered, and much of the test was practical in nature. For most of the questions, you were required to conduct the analysis on SPSS, and write down the results. Because the grading was mostly objective in nature, I ended up with a solid 96 in the course.

PSCI 299 - Politics Beyond the Classroom

This course was introduced as a new mandatory requirement for all new Political Science major students. Although I wasn't required to take this course as an upper-year student, I figured I might as well take it. My advisor mentioned that it would allow me to have an easier courseload this term, and thus maintain a GPA that is still competitive. The content of this course was unlike any other PSCI course I've taken. Rather than discussion politics of some sort, this course was more of a professional development course that allowed students to understand potential career pathways within Political Science, as well as also giving them the opportunity to explore different specializations and minors within the Political Science program. I would compare this course as being similar to Careers in Grade 10, except that this course was more focused towards Political Science students. The content of this course focused mostly on exploring the PSCI program, learning how to write a proper paper, learning to summarize and critically evaluate readings, and also learning about the job opportunities for Political Science students. Unlike most other courses, this course was marked on a Credit/No-Credit basis, meaning that as long as you got 65% or more, it would appear as a credit on your transcript. My professor for this course was professor Anna Esselment, who I also had for PSCI 100 back in 2015. As usual, she was a great professor and taught the course quite well. Despite being a CR/NCR course, she was still able to get students interested in the content and encouraged discussions in class.

Winter 2018 Co-Op

Starting January, I'll be working again for the Ontario government, but this time as a Junior Policy Analyst for the Ontario Ministr yof Education! I actually got quite lucky in landing this job. Initially, I was only given a "ranked" designation for this job, which meant that although the employer liked me, I was not their top choice. However, I ended up talking to the other candidates, and it turned out that their top candidate was accepting another offer. Thus, I was next on the list for this job, and managed to land it.

I'm hoping that I'll learn a lot from this job, and be able to further apply what I've already learned from the Treasury Board Secretariat. This is my second last Co-op, so it might even be one of the places that I'll end up working full-time for. Anyways, I'll finish off now saying that this year in general was a pretty lucky one for me. A lot of things happened that went into my favour, and I'm really grateful that it went that way.



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