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Introducing Jessica Drakul, Master in Public Administration Graduate Student

Graduate Studies


Jessica Drakul

Recently, the Faculty of Graduate Studies chatted with Public Administration graduate student, Jessica Drakul, who discusses their graduate experience and current role in the public sector.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, the graduate program you are enrolled in, and your research interests?

I’m a transplant to Winnipeg from St. John’s, Newfoundland, and I have an MA from Western University in Comparative Literature. I’ve been working for the Manitoba government since 2009 – despite not having the most conventional academic background! When I decided I was going to be a “lifer” in public service, I took the next logical step and applied to the Joint Master of Public Administration Program. I was drawn to the academic side of public administration because of my long-time involvement in the Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC). So far in the MPA, I’ve been really fascinated by discourse analysis because it relates to my earlier work in semiotics (I have an English degree, too, from Memorial University of NL), and I’m really interested in representations of the public service in popular culture (think Parks and Recreation).

What has been a highlight for you while attending the Master in Public Administration graduate program?

There are a lot of highlights, so I hope I don’t have to pick just one! As I mentioned, I’ve been really interested in qualitative research methods, and I also really enjoyed the Public Finance for Policy Analysis course I took with Dr. Linda DeRiviere. It was hugely eye-opening for me. Another highlight has been the people, both my tenacious classmates and the passionate faculty members. I’ve loved the immersive nature of the program, even as a part-timer. Attending graduate workshops, colloquiums and having endless opportunities to converse with other motivated, engaged people is really invigorating for me. It’s so exciting to go to an optional workshop on a Saturday morning and find it full of eager people. I guess I’m a bit of a nerd - luckily, now I never lack for anyone to talk political studies with! I’ve also really benefitted from some of the Indigenous programming offered by the U of W – I felt so fortunate to take the Indigenous Insights Training this winter and would recommend it to everyone.

On March 24th, you are speaking on a panel titled: "Graduate Student and Alumni Panel: A Career in the Public Service". Can you tell us a bit about your job in the public sector?

I have worked in the Manitoba Government since 2009 in a variety of policy analysis and advisory roles in different departments. I was fortunate enough to be gently acclimated to government through a wonderful internship program, now called The Leaders in Training Program, and progressed through some incredible opportunities to arrive at the Civil Service Commission, where I’ve been for almost two years. I’m a Policy Advisor there in the area of Policy, Programs and Learning and I work primarily on legislative matters and employee engagement initiatives – an interesting mix! It’s been a really wonderful fit with my current classes, because the course content reflects the corporate government concerns of the Commission: equity, diversity and inclusion; values and ethics; workforce management; and the future of government. I can’t imagine a more cohesive fit between my work and school at this point. I think it’s something the MPA program takes very seriously – the applicability and relevance of course content to the world of public administration work.

What could a student expect to hear from the discussion?

I expect I’ll talk quite a bit about my experiences thus far in the program (although I’ve only taken four courses so far in two semesters) and how that learning has enriched the work I’d already been doing. I’ve been really fortunate to have a career in public service this past decade without “formal” public service education, other than a Certificate in Public Sector Management, and that’s because the public service is welcoming of so many kinds of diverse backgrounds. Doing an MPA, though, I feel more grounded, like I have so much more clarity about the roles I play as a public servant, and the context in which I operate. As I noted, I was drawn to come back to school through my involvement in IPAC, at both the national and provincial level. I sat on the national board of IPAC for three years from 2017 to 2020 and I became fascinated by the interplay of academia and public service practice. There is so much that students and practitioners can learn from each other – I feel enriched when I am able to experience both at the same time.

What have you found to be the most rewarding aspect of attending the Public Administration graduate program while working in the public sector?

I mentioned above how meaningful it’s been for me to be surrounded by a fascinating mix of people who are so passionate about what they do. The MPA program has part-time students who already work in the public sector, as well as full-time students looking to take the next step. There's a range of ages and backgrounds and eclectic experience, with each student motivated to contribute to the public good. While I haven’t gotten to know some of these amazing people as well as I’d like due to COVID and the virtual classroom, I’ve been really impressed at how seamless the experience has been and how much I’ve benefitted even if I can’t be on campus for my classes just yet. Universities are really about learning together, and I find I learn best when I’m amongst people who are as drawn to these subjects as I am. It’s endlessly encouraging to me to see both how many young people are still going into public service, and how many current public servants are still enchanted by learning even if they already have stable careers. Engaged people are my favorite people, and the MPA is overflowing with both students and staff who inspire me.

Thank you so much for taking some time out of this busy time of the year! Good luck with your speaking engagement!

Contact Dylan Jones at d.jones@uwinnipeg.ca if you would like to register for the panel: Graduate Student and Alumni Panel: A Career in the Public Service.

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