Opportunity of a lifetime
I was so glad when the School of Public Administration at Dalhousie University invited me to apply for the Master of Public Administration (MPA) program. In addition to being a great program as alluded to by the professors, employers, the public, and alumni, the Dal MPA is a wholesome learning experience.
Hands-on experience and a fantastic role model
Part of this experience has been the opportunity to work for Hon. Mayann Francis, the first black Nova Scotian Lieutenant Governor (2006 – 2012). Hon. Francis is the first Distinguished Public Service Fellow at the Dalhousie University School of Public Administration and working as her Research Assistant (RA) is a great honour of my life. She is not just interested in my getting her work done. She is keen on this being a learning experience for me. We meet weekly and we reflect on the work I have done. I am learning a great deal about Human Rights in Nova Scotia and Canada.
My reading culture has also improved significantly. Hon. Francis set up a small library in her office where I can borrow her books. Through the books and research, I have met great change-makers – African Nova Scotians, African Americans, and Canadian women leaders. Burnley Rocky Jones has stood out for me. I have also become familiar with Stokley Carmichael, Viola Desmond, Harry Jerome, Michaëlle Jean, the young Trevor Noah, among others.
Most recently, Hon. Francis introduced me to a few more change-makers in person. At her invitation, I attended the installation of the 33rd Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, the Honorable Arthur LeBlanc. This is a rare opportunity for anyone, let alone a student. She introduced me to Mi’kmaq Elder Doug Knockwood, the Premier of Nova Scotia Hon. Stephen McNeil, the new Lieutenant Governor, former Lieutenant Governors, the Chief Justice of the appeals court of Nova Scotia, government ministers and Members of the Legislature. Their enthusiasm in serving the people of Nova Scotia is exemplary.
As an African Leader of Tomorrow Scholar, I take home this great lesson from my experience with Hon. Francis:
“I must be a change-maker and contribute to building a public service system that works and makes Kenya a just and equitable society for all Kenyans no matter the tribe, race, religion, class, or other differences that continue to deter our progress as a people.”
Irina Wandera is an African Leader of Tomorrow scholar from Kenya.