Graduates Features: Spencer Page, MAGG ’21

What is your current position?

Special Advisor to the Assistant Deputy Minister (Policy) at the Department of National Defence.

What attracted you to your program of study at the BSIA?

I was most interested in the Balsillie School’s interdisciplinary community and its interest in mobilizing that strength to address emerging and multi-faceted policy challenges. The culture at Balsillie was such that, while I was able to take courses that were of interest to me, I was also encouraged to study widely and seek exposure to topics outside of my specific research area. Whereas other programs seemed to channel students into narrower specializations, I felt confident that the MAGG program would provide me with both depth and breadth. I wasn’t disappointed. Through my varied coursework and special projects, I discovered brand new interests in subjects I would not have expected. I also got to be a member of a rich and diverse community of classmates and professors who had a profoundly positive influence on my education and career trajectory.

What was the most impactful experience you had while completing your graduate degree?

The Graduate Fellowship Program was a highlight of my time at the BSIA. The project provided an opportunity to develop a refined product to an audience of policymakers. The engagement with Global Affairs Canada was a fun and rewarding component of the program, but I most enjoyed getting to work more closely with a small group of my classmates to deliver a larger project. I learned a lot from the distinct perspectives and approaches which they brought to the team that I have carried with me into my career. The mentorship I received from my professors also had a tremendously positive impact on my experience. BSIA faculty were supportive of my work and provided excellent feedback that strengthened my writing and analytical skills. I am also grateful for the outstanding support and advisement I received from the program manager and my research supervisor in preparing for my post-graduation career. This certainly made the difference in helping me to balance my studies with job and internship applications.

Tell us about your job, what do you do?

The ADM’s office is a lot like the air traffic control centre for the Policy Group at National Defence. Much of the policy work and decisions within the department get funnelled through the ADM and my role is to facilitate that process by coordinating with each of our policy teams, supporting the ADM in his own meetings and engagements, and liaising with the offices of other senior decision-makers. Unlike my previous postings at National Defence, I do not dive too deeply into any one topic. Instead, I am required to engage with and provide input on numerous files every day, often spanning a vast spectrum of defence and security issues.

How does your work help make a difference? You can give a specific example if you’d like!

In my previous posting with National Defence’s Directorate of NATO Policy, I was a policy officer assigned to the Ukraine file. This was a significant and sobering opportunity to observe the immediate effects of my work on the ground and helped me gain an appreciation for how policymaking affects real people, sometimes in the most dire of circumstances. In my current role, we are focused on how all of the Department’s different priorities fit together and it can be more difficult to see that direct and tangible human impact. However, in supporting the decision-making process, I do get to play a small part in the gradual but ongoing process of determining what DND’s and the Canadian Armed Forces’ role will be in Canadian society and in international politics.

What are the next steps in your career progression… where do you see yourself going?

I’ve retained several interests from my time at the BSIA including climate change, space, and Indigenous sovereignty; these are all areas where Defence is doing fascinating and significant work which I would be interested in supporting. I’m also open to exploring the distinct perspectives and mandates of other departments like Global Affairs Canada, the Department of Finance, or the Privy Council Office. I enjoy public service and can easily see it being my career, but I also sometimes miss the university space and feel motivated to return to my more academic interests via doctoral research. Much like my studies at the BSIA, my work at National Defence has opened my eyes even further to the scale of the crises facing Canada and the world this century. I am increasingly of the conviction that, wherever my professional pursuits lead, I must be intentional about building the knowledge and capabilities needed to work with others and rise to the challenges before us.

What advice to you have for a potential student looking to complete their degree at the BSIA? Or for someone looking to work in Global Governance and International Policy?

For prospective students of the BSIA, I strongly encourage you to be engaged with the supportive network of faculty and classmates that will surround you during your studies. For me this was sometimes difficult (I completed my entire degree during the COVID-19 pandemic and have to this day not physically visited the BSIA) but taking initiative to reach out to professors and classmates enabled me to get more out of my classes, research, and the professional development opportunities which the school provides. If you are interested in a career in global governance or international policy, then I advise you to enter that space open to new ideas and willing to challenge your assumptions. I think of policy as managing change – whether that be political, economic, technological, or environmental. To do this, we need analytical minds, but we also need intellectual adaptability, tolerance, and imagination. With its interdisciplinary program and community, there are few better places than the BSIA to help you refine those attitudes and gather the experiences you will need to become capable and compassionate policymakers.

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