The Canada School of Public Service is playing a significant role in the Government of Canada’s public service renewal initiative through its Public Servant-in-Residence (PSIR) program.
The program offers high-performing public servants an opportunity to conduct research and/or teach in areas linked to public service priorities in a Canadian university for a period between six months and two years. Created in 2003, the program helps the public service build stronger linkages and greater collaboration with Canadian universities and encourages federal public service recruitment and renewal by promoting the public service as a career option to university students. This work may not be well known, but it bridges the gap in knowledge and expertise between the public and academic sectors.
While each participant’s assignment is linked to federal priorities, they also engage in a wide variety of activities while on campus, including: delivering lectures, conducting research, working on collaborative projects with faculty, helping create new programs and courses, organizing on-campus recruitment activities and mentoring students.
Developing future leaders
Diane Morissette, a senior director with Service Canada, participated in the program from 2009 to 2011 at York University’s Glendon Campus, a small bilingual campus with approximately 2,500 students. With a long, distinguished career in the public service spanning 28 years, Morissette was eager to share her experiences with a future generation of public servants. And she certainly left her mark. She was involved in the creation and development of the new bilingual Glendon School of Public and International Affairs, which included presentations in different courses and organization of weekly colloquiums.
“Not only does this program provide an opportunity to develop an important network of relationships and partnerships with many institutions, participation in the Public Servant-in-Residence Program gives senior public servants the privilege to interact with an extraordinary young generation eager to understand our institutions and to serve,” she said.
As a past participant, she experienced first-hand the benefits of collaboration between universities and the public service for both sectors. “The mission of academic institutions and governments in the context of PSIR are complementary. It is very important for the public service to get out there in the community. It also brings another perspective to academic institutions.”
Value-added for universities
Michael Barutciski, director of Graduate Studies for Glendon’s new program, is pleased to have had the opportunity to work with a public servant with such expertise and enthusiasm in the creation of Canada’s first bilingual school in public and international affairs.
“We realized early on that having Ms. Morissette on our team quickly became a must,” he said. “She played a big part in laying the foundation of the school and her insight and fresh perspective from her long career in the federal public service were invaluable.”
Rich research opportunities
Robin McLay has been an executive within the public service since 2001 and a current participant in the program. He is now sharing his expertise as executive director with the Institute for the Study of International Development at McGill University.
“The program has provided me with the time and space to work on several projects that are consistent with my interests in international development and understanding how research can influence policy through sustained engagement between researchers and policymakers,” said McLay. “It has also provided me with the opportunity to work with other government departments, non-governmental organizations, the private sector and many other partners around the world. The PSIR program has yielded considerable results to date and it will continue to realize significant returns in terms of the partnerships and collaborations.”
According to McLay, the most interesting part of the program is making significant connections and playing a role in building important bridges between academic institutions and government priorities. “I have learned that public servants can have considerable value within this environment in terms of knowledge exchanges, expanding networks, making important connections and forging partnerships that add considerable value to various dimensions of social, economic and science-related policy.
“The Public Servant-in-Residence program is is a valuable and rewarding experience that will not only enrich the education of the students with whom you interact, but you will also enhance your own individual leadership abilities, as well as bring valuable knowledge back to the public service.”
Michele Brenning is vice-president of strategic directions, Program Development and Marketing Branch, Canada School of Public Service. For details on the PSIR program and how to apply, visit www.myschool.gc.ca.