Undergraduate: Conflict Studies and Human Rights

“This exceptional program deals with current issues and real-world problems. It helps students cultivate a critical mindset with regards to international matters unfolding right now. I find it’s an ideal happy medium between two important disciplines: politics and law. The program is exciting, engaging and can lead to so many careers. My classmates are equally motivated and my professors are fascinating!”

Omra Masstan, student


Stefanie Morris - GSPIA alumna

I highly recommend GSPIA to anyone interested in issues of social justice or the nonprofit sector. This program offers what I feel is the optimal balance between theoretical knowledge and practical experience.

I came to GPSIA with an academic background in anthropology, after spending a year working an administrative (and fairly unrelated) job for the federal government. My hope was that attending GSPIA would allow me to steer my career back towards my primary interests: immigration and refugee policy. Because of the flexibility of GSPIA’s program, I not only was able to design my own experience to fit my interests but also gained a stronger foundation in international relations theory, ethics, economics and statistics. My first year also left me in awe of the excellent faculty and my collaborative cohort; the people I interacted with each day were the highlight of my experience, challenging and supporting me at every turn.

GSPIA also offers what I consider the best networking and placement opportunities for those interested in public service or to gain experience to transition to another sector. I personally participated in the CO-OP program and had many friends do the same. In my experience, the CO-OP program is very well managed and opens many doors. Interviews were organized by the CO-OP office and held on campus within the span of a few weeks: all I had to do was apply and attend the interviews. I ended up getting a few offers, including one from my first pick placement at Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) as a policy analyst related to complex cases. After my placement, I was able to continue working there part-time throughout my second year. The work was fascinating, challenging and I was treated as a valuable team member.

This work experience helped me realize that I had a deep interest in the legal work related immigration and refugee issues. During my second year at GSPIA, I found a professor whose interests matched my own (Dr. Patti Tamara Lenard) and she offered me a tremendous amount of support as my Major Research Paper supervisor. Together we worked on a project researching refugee family reunification and private sponsorship policies and laws in Canada. We have one article currently submitted for publishing and hope to write a second.

The skills and knowledge I gained at GSPIA relating to research, policy, and especially immigration and refugee matters continue to open doors for me. In my second year, GSPIA's flexibility allowed me to finish my courses early and volunteer at a legal clinic for refugees during the winter semester. In my last summer as a student, I was hired to conduct research in Tanzania concerning the country’s national refugee legal framework. I've also had the opportunity to present my research at a number of conferences and network with a wide range of refugee experts in Canada and abroad.

As my time at GSPIA concludes, I have been accepted to law school, though I’ve chosen to defer for a year to continue my research and to gain some more experience in the public sector. From my very first semester until now, I’ve observed GSPIA open many doors both for myself and for my peers. If you’re hoping for the flexibility to design your own experience, GPSIA is the place for you!

Stefanie Morris

Maryam Shah - GSPIA alumna

I came to GSPIA with five years of experience in local news reporting following an undergraduate degree in journalism and anthropology. I had a number of goals for myself in this program: learn as much as possible about international relations, research methods, economics, and development; learn different ways to analyze data; and get a taste of what it’s like to work in the federal government. An added bonus was that the program requires a major research paper, which I feel is an excellent way to specialize in one’s specific area of interest and to showcase independent research work.

Through the co-op component, I experienced what it was like to work in the federal government for one summer without any strings attached. It was a good way to test the waters and see if public service was a good fit, or if a return to journalism was right for me instead.

Given my journalistic background and my interest in media studies, I used the external course option to take a class on ‘fake news’ through the communications department. Getting departmental approval for an external course was easy and straightforward.

The mixed research methods course allowed me to confront my fear of spreadsheets. Prof. Ravi Pendakur took every opportunity to teach us how to interpret quantitative and qualitative data using different tools. Since I was eyeing a return to news reporting by then, I treated the course as a way to pick up the skills necessary for data journalism. I even wound up auditing a second course on data analytics, taught by practitioners in government. These two courses helped me feel confident that I had gained skills I could use in my journalism career after GSPIA.

My time at GSPIA led me to a contract for Global Affairs focused on monitoring and evaluation. This contract stemmed from a capstone course – organized by Prof. Christoph Zuercher – that taught me how to evaluate the impact and outcomes of development aid, and how to use those same evaluation skills in a future newsroom.

Being in Ottawa -- in close proximity to federal government as well as the headquarters of multiple international organizations -- also meant I could reach out and meet a number of experts from various fields over coffee, or attend different workshops and lectures.

I am currently working as an online reporter for a major news organization while writing my research paper on media coverage of refugee resettlement movements, utilizing everything I’ve learned from my classes on research methods, communications, international law, and international development. I can confidently say that my time at GSPIA has informed my news judgment and reporting skills, and widened the breadth of news stories I plan on pitching and writing in the future.

Maryam Shah

Luke DeCoste - GSPIA alumnus

It is 2008 and I am talking to the then program director of GSPIA. The buildings of Parliament and the Department of Defense are visible over his shoulder. These are powerful signs that this is the place to be for understanding government.

I have arrived at a junction in my professional life. My engineering degree has me building a luxury shopping mall and I feel an urgent desire for change, to get involved in the policy issues challenging our country and world. The choice to attend GSPIA in 2009 throws me in front of a fire hose of world-changing events. Our class flashes back and forth from classic journal articles on democracy, to live streams of the Arab Spring. We tear through foundational economic models as the housing crisis tears through global savings and inaccurate projections.

I am gripped with ensuring this program moves me into the dynamic world of government.  A former Canadian Ambassador, now GPSIA Senior Fellow offers me a lifeline – a research assistantship on track two diplomacy. Fantastic! Four months later I am in the Canadian Embassy in Manila reporting on a pivotal election underway in the country. It is happening – I am making the career shift!

Since then, I have spent a decade leveraging both my degrees: bringing engineering rigor to government decision-making. The digital government startup I co-founded three years ago, proofgov.com, is digitizing thousands of decisions per week for governments across the country. In part because of the credibility GSPIA gives me, we are building an amazing team, feature in national media, excel at top tier global technology accelerators, receive investment from leading venture capital firms, and most importantly – empower public servants to do more.

As important as the career transition, are the friendships. The classmate I met on the first day at GSPIA spoke at my wedding 8 years later. Some of my closest friends come from my time at GSPIA, as does a valuable network of colleagues across the world, and Senior Fellow, Dr. Richard French remains a treasured mentor.

Today, as our company pushes predictive analytics and artificial intelligence into the public sector, I know the challenges are massive, and the potential is huge. While I cannot know the future, I am grateful to have GSPIA's foundation in understanding public policy, and the network it has given me to help me contribute to that future.

Luke DeCoste