Winter 2019 Summary

May 05, 2019

Hello everyone! This is it - my final term at the University of Waterloo has finished up! It's been a long five years, but I feel like I've done a lot here and wrapped up my final term pretty smoothly.

I went into this term pretty excited but also anxious for what would await me. Unlike all the other terms where I knew I was headed off for another Co-op somewhere, this term was full of uncertainty. I was applying for graduate schools and hitting up my network that I had built back in Fall 2018 to see if there were any full-time job opportunities.

But all of that has ended, and my path is a bit clearer. Right now, I am heading towards a 4-month contract job for the Federal Government starting in June. I've also accepted an offer at Carleton University for their Master's Degree in Public Policy and Administration, which came with a whopping $46,000 in funding. The funding pack is super generous; it will allow me to finish up my degree without having to pay a cent in tuition or living costs, while also saving some money too!

I'm still in the process of some other job applications and I have been trying to attain a more permanent job, but I'm not sure what will come out of that. I recently hit a big setback when two offers (one of them permanent) were rescinded at the last moment. However, at this time, I'm pretty content with where I am going for now. There will likely be another blog post later on about my journey graduating and on the topic of my offers getting rescinded, but for this post, I'll focus on the courses I took. As usual, I will 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.


PSCI 461 - Canadian National Politics

PSCI 461 was pretty much guaranteed to be on my list for Winter term. Not only was it a continuation of PSCI 260 and PSCI 360, it was a seminar course that outlined some pretty important topics regarding the 2019 Election, which was something that greatly interested me. The seminar course was quite well designed and followed a book club format. Four books were read during the course, each covering a certain policy area. The discussed policy areas included Indigenous rights, Abortion, Oil and Gas Extraction, and Multiculturalism. The course focused on connecting each of these policy areas to key debates in the upcoming federal election and gaining insight on how parties will position themselves within this area. The evaluation was done through two book reviews of around 2500 words each, as well as participation in class discussions and a debate. The book reviews could be done for any two of the four books, and if a student wanted to, they could do more than 2 reviews and take the highest two marks. The participation was marked very generously, and as long as you contributed regularly in class and attended the debate sessions, you tended to score very high. There were also bonus marks for participating in activities outside of class, which I took advantage of. The professor, Gerry Boychuk, was a seasoned expert in teaching Canadian and US politics, and I highly recommend him. I've had him as my professor three times so far, and each experience has been nothing short of excellent. My final grade in the course was quite high, at 95%, especially due to the strong grades I received in the participation component and the bonus marks that were given.

PSCI 452 - Comparative Political Parties

After having taken PSCI 244 and PSCI 255 with Jingjing Huo, I decided that I would see how his 400-level seminar course was like. The course, much like the title suggests, was focused on comparing the different types of political parties and the political spectrum. We focused on topics such as left vs. right wing, conservativism vs liberalism, authoritarian vs democratic, and the different issues that parties focus on, depending on their strategy to gain votes. The seminar discussion for this course was not as sustained as PSCI 461, but it was still interesting to learn about the different types of parties, especially in countries with political systems and histories that are very different to that of Canada. The course was evaluated on participation, a reading presentation, and a final paper. I found this course to be a bit underwhelming when compared to PSCI 255 or 244, as the topic and the assigned readings were not as interesting. However, the course was quite easy and did not require much effort compared to PSCI 461. My final grade in the course was a healthy 92%.

PSCI 334/PS 618 - Public Policy

I was actually very lucky to be able to take this course. Initially, I had a time conflict between this course and ECON 201. However, the professor of both courses, Daniel Henstra, allowed me to attend the Master's of Public Service variant of PSCI 334 (PS 618) instead of the undergraduate version. Not only did this allow me to take both ECON 201 and PSCI 334, it allowed me to immerse myself in a graduate course environment and talk with the Master's students. This helped me make valuable friends and contacts that I know I will be seeing once I am back in Ottawa, as most of the students in the program were applying to their first public service Co-op job. This course, like the title suggests, focuses on analyzing the policy development cycle and discusses how public policy is made and implemented across all levels of the bureaucracy in Canada. Topics covered include policy formulation, agenda-setting, decision-making in government, policy implementation, and policy evaluation. We were evaluated on two tests, an essay, and on participation. The professor, Daniel Henstra, has been much of a mentor to me since my third year. He's an amazing and helpful professor and really cares for the academic and career success of his students. He was one of the professors who I could just visit during office hours and chat about anything. As for the course itself, like any course taught by Henstra, the material and evaluation methods were straightforward, and I ended up with a 96% as my final mark.

FR 152 - Beginner French II

Because my future career potential probably lied within the Federal Government due to the hiring freeze currently in place within the Provincial Government, I decided to take another French course in order to help boost my language skills. French for me was very important, as it would allow me to better advance within the Federal Government once I am working there. The course content was very much a continuation of FR 151, even using the same textbook. The main focus was learning the common grammatical tenses, include passe compose, imparfait, and futur simple. Pronouns were also taught, and vocabulary regarding everyday life situations was emphasized. The course content consisted of three tests, participation, some short assignments, and an exam. The professor, Hailey Verstraete, was actually a Master's student in the French program. She was pretty kind, and due to her young age, was able to relate well to the students in the class. The evaluations were pretty straightforward and mostly knowledge based, and I ended off in the course with a 94%.

ECON 201 - Microeconomic Theory for Business and Policy

For my final course, I ended up taking ECON 201 as I felt it would prepare me better for a Master's program in Public Policy, as Economics courses are almost always mandatory in those programs. ECON 201 pretty much covered the same topics of ECON 101, but with a greater level of analysis. Instead of brushing on the surface level of topics such as supply and demand, elasticity, taxes, price ceilings, production, and firm demands, ECON 201 used real numbers and analysis to actually illustrate these topics. Instead of just realizing that a tax would increase price and decrease quantity as we had learned in ECON 101, we learned to calculate specifically the equilibrium price and quantity of oil if, for example, a 10 cent tax was introduced. Course evaluations consisted of weekly online quizzes, 2 midterms, an exam, and an extra bonus 2% for participation. The professor, Predrag Rajsic, was pretty talented in teaching and had a slight Slavic accent that made his lectures even more interesting. Overall, the course was pretty easy, as one of my strengths was in application of concepts. However, it did get somewhat difficult near the end as a knowledge of basic Calculus was required. I pretty much got perfect on the midterms and quizzes, but the exam was more difficult and dropped me down to a 95% final grade.

Concluding Remarks and the Future Ahead

This is it I guess! This article might mark the end of my term series, at least for my undergraduate career. I might drop in a new term series for my graduate studies, but I am not sure yet on what I can write about.

It's been a pretty wild ride at UWaterloo and I hope that these article have helped a lot of people. I won't be done blogging for sure though - there's plenty of stuff to write about my career and some advice articles I have in mind. I'll for sure drop in another article before the end of this year to let you guys know where I am at. For all those people that message me on Facebook or LinkedIn offering me encouragement, thanks very much for your support. Knowing that I helped some people out there is really what keeps me going, and I really appreciate it.

Until next time!