SPPA marks 10-year milestone and celebrates 150 years of public service in Ontario

From left to right: Jim Pine, Rhonda Lenton, Alena Kimakova and Jane Wedlock

York University’s School of Public Policy and Administration (SPPA), in the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies (LAPS), held a reception on March 28 at the Royal Ontario Museum to celebrate 150 years of public service in Ontario as well its own milestone.

This year, SPPA marks 10 years since the establishment of the School and its Master of Public Policy, Administration and Law (MPPAL) program.

Guests in attendance included the school’s own alumni and other professionals working in the Ontario Public Service (OPS), as well as students and faculty.

The school’s director, Professor Alena Kimakova, opened the event and underscored the importance of recognizing public service. She also highlighted the ever-changing challenges policy-makers and public servants face in their daily work, while balancing multiple, and often competing, objectives as well as diverse stakeholder views. To acknowledge the work involved in the different spheres of public service, the speakers’ list included representatives from the OPS, the municipal government and the non-profit sector. In line with the school’s objective to always remain current and relevant in its work, the speakers focused on the road ahead.

The Honourable Steven Del Duca, Minister of Transportation

York University Chancellor Greg Sorbara introduced the Hon. Steven Del Duca, Minister of Transportation, who emphasized the important role non-partisan public servants play in supporting decisions made by elected officials. He also commented on the quality of the work that York University and SPPA graduates bring to the OPS. The challenges in transportation are on the minds of all York community members and GTA residents, and Del Duca is aware of the importance of his portfolio for the quality of life in Ontario.

Jim Pine, chief administrative officer of the County of Hastings and co-chair of the ONWARD Initiative dedicated to succession planning in Ontario municipalities, drew attention to the expected wave of retirements in the municipal sector and the need for training and recruitment to rejuvenate the workforce and its leadership. He called on students and alumni to seriously consider careers in surrounding municipalities, and for municipalities to create more opportunities to bring students and young professionals into the sector early on in their careers.

Jane Wedlock, manager, Public Affairs at United Way Toronto & York Region, stressed the importance of community-based research and knowledge mobilization for creating social programs from the ground up, and highlighted the collaborative projects between United Way and York University in this area. Kimakova made note of students involved in such projects in partnership with broader public sector organizations in key experiential education courses, the importance of stakeholder consultations for the design of social programs and capacity-building in non-profit organizations and the communities they serve.

Narda Razack, associate dean, Global and Community Engagement in the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies, thanked all of the speakers at the event for their thoughtful and visionary remarks, and called for further collaboration to expand opportunities for our students.

From left to right: Jim Pine, Rhonda Lenton, Alena Kimakova and Jane Wedlock

Provost and President-designate Rhonda Lenton offered closing remarks at the event. She thanked the featured guests as well as two York Presidents Emeriti in attendance, Lorna Marsden and Ian MacDonald – who are both currently serving on the SPPA Advisory Committee, for their service to the University and the public more broadly. Lenton also highlighted opportunities for working together in the future, for instance, through the Markham campus development.