Influencing public policy through research and collaboration: An alumna returns to a new role at uOttawa

Research and innovation

By University of Ottawa

Office of the Vice-President, Research and Innovation, OVPRI

Aerial view of Gatineau
Who better to bolster relationships between universities and government than a distinguished research fellow in public policy with extensive experience in both research and government? Peggy Schmeiser, PhD, the University of Ottawa’s very first director, public policy research and outreach, checks this box — and many more.

Government and policy decision-makers are under pressure every day — accountable for every dollar they spend. They need answers to the problems facing our global communities, and they need a strong research community that can provide evidence-based guidance. “The relationship between research and government is crucial, so we must find ways to foster collaborations,” says Schmeiser. “I like to think this position can serve as a helpful bridge between the worlds of academia and public policy. At the risk of sounding a bit idealistic, I sincerely believe that a university has a substantial role to play in making the world a better place.”

Schmeiser’s extensive experience in public policy research and outreach includes serving for many years as a faculty member and researcher at the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy in Saskatchewan, as the director of government relations in the office of the president at the University of Saskatchewan and as a senior public servant in a range of ministries with the Government of Canada. She also co-founded and served as associate director for the Centre for the Study of Science and Innovation Policy and has led transdisciplinary initiatives relating to major scientific research and Canadian public policy.

One of Schmeiser’s main priorities will be to strengthen the University of Ottawa’s position among senior federal and provincial thought-leaders and policymakers. She will be responsible for building collaborative networks and joint initiatives with federal and provincial departments on topics where uOttawa is a leader, such as artificial intelligence, human rights, health, governance, cybersecurity, and equity, diversity and inclusion.

Schmeiser is eager to work with uOttawa research centres and institutes and draw on their expertise to foster connections with government. “We’re facing complex problems as a global community and we need to focus on holistic approaches,” she says. “I think uOttawa is uniquely placed to bring multidimensional perspectives and input to policy decision-making across numerous priority areas.”

Drawing on her own research activities and engagement spanning diverse disciplines and policy sectors, Schmeiser looks forward to developing and deepening relationships with administrative and academic units across uOttawa. A proud alumna, Schmeiser completed several graduate degrees, including two MAs and a PhD in the Department of Classics and Religious Studies, with a specialization in Canadian studies. “This is an incredible opportunity for me, returning from the Prairies, to work again in the nation’s capital at one of Canada’s U15 institutions.”

Peggy Schmeiser holding an infant
Schmeiser has fond memories of the national capital’s natural beauty, especially the time she spent hiking and canoeing in Gatineau Park. Now with four children, she can’t wait for them to experience all that the region has to offer.

Having worked in numerous bilingual positions with the federal government and in Paris with UNESCO, Schmeiser is also looking forward to helping fulfil the University’s commitment to bilingualism, which she feels will “enhance and give stronger meaning to my role, responsibilities, and impacts in public policy.”

“I loved my early experiences at the University of Ottawa,” Schmeiser says. “It was as vice-president, communications, for the Graduate Students’ Association that I first developed a strong interest in policy and the postsecondary sector. Even then, I enjoyed engaging with administrators, faculty, students and external partners to advance our common goals. uOttawa is where it all began for me!”