Public service values celebrated at School of Public Policy & Administration awards

The 2018 Students, Alumni & Community Recognition Awards dinner hosted by the School of Public Policy & Administration (SPPA) took place on Nov. 22.

Derek Lett, executive director, Office of the Ontario Conflict of Interest Commissioner, during his address titled, “Public Service in Turbulent Times: The Importance of Public Service Values”

With more than 100 guests in attendance, the annual gathering featured a keynote address by alumnus Derek Lett, executive director in the Office of the Conflict of Interest Commissioner of Ontario. Lett earned his specialized honours bachelor of arts in public policy and administration in 1991. He reflected on his 26-year career in the Ontario Public Service, which spanned many significant changes in governments.

Aiming to provide guidance to students and recent graduates on how to cope with change, Lett emphasized in his remarks the adherence to three long-standing core public service values: professionalism, neutrality and integrity. Lett also spoke about what attracts and motivates an individual to choose public service, and “what actually keeps someone there and allows them to weather the storms associated with negative public perception, leaders who might distrust public servants and others who may choose to undermine trust in public institutions for political advantage.” He shared experiences that resonated with the audience: high-stakes work “in the face of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity,” concluding that “public service is an honourable, humble and noble profession,” and that “we must be open to different ways of achieving an objective.” He said, “Approaches do not have to be mutually exclusive. Be innovative.”

Lett was also presented with this year’s Practicum Award by for his long-standing commitment to the practicum program for fourth-year Bachelor of Public Administration students. Peter Constantinou, the school’s experiential education co-ordinator, presented him with the award.

Several other awards were presented to students and alumni:

Justin Tan (centre) with his parents

The Undergraduate Student Award was awarded to Justin Tan in the Management stream of the Specialized Honours Bachelor of Public Administration (BPA) program for his service to the Public Policy & Administration Student Association (PPASA). Tan served as president in 2017-18, during his third year of studies, and as director of recruitment prior to that. In 2018, Tan also received the McLaughlin Academics’ Choice Award for his involvement with the work of the college. Tan has also volunteered and worked for Canadian Red Cross and is currently working as CCTV team lead operator for Security Services while completing his studies at York.

The Graduate Student Award went to Eric Lothman in the Master of Public Policy, Administration & Law (MPPAL) program. Lothman enthusiastically participated in the 2017 IPAC-CAPPA Case Competition during his first year in the MPPAL program, volunteered at open houses and helped organize professional development opportunities for both MPPAL and BPA students. Lothman has also served as the director of communication for the Graduate Students’ Association of Public Policy, Administration & Law (GSAPPAL) as well as in a number of other volunteer roles, including as manager of outreach and partnerships for the Strategic Leadership Forum and as a student outreach committee member for the Canadian Association of Management Consultants (CMC-Canada). Lothman currently holds the position of policy analyst in the Student Achievement Division of the Ontario Ministry of Education.

Rebecca Mukuna (right) receives her award from University Professor Brenda Spotton Visano

The Best 2018 Major Research Paper Award went to Rebecca Mukuna (MPPAL ’18) for her research on the topic of health and safety for migrant farm workers in the seasonal agricultural worker program. Mukuna started working for the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety as a training and education assistant in 2017, and what she learned on the job regarding health and safety also inspired her to write her major research paper. University Professor Brenda Spotton Visano served as Mukuna’s research supervisor and presented her with the award.

MPPAL students Lisa Gotlieb, Rod Carew, Pauline Raphael, Diane Prelich and Tasha Oommen were presented with the Best Team Award for their participation in the 2018 IPAC-CAPPA National Case Competition by Professor Dagmar Soennecken, graduate program director for the MPPAL program. Professor Soennecken also acknowledged the work of the team’s dedicated coaches, John Wilkins and Anthea English, who both brought to the students a wealth of experience from the federal public service and elsewhere, and have held executive-in-residence positions at the Schulich School of Business and the School of Public Policy & Administration respectively.

Above: From left, John Wilkins (coach), MPPAL students Rod Carew, Tasha Oommen, Diane Prelich, Pauline Raphael, Anthea English (coach) and MPPAL Director Dagmar Soennecken

Professor Joanne Magee, the undergraduate program director, and Sukhpreet Singh, president of the PPASA, presented the awards to the following winners of the school’s high-school essay contest for sharing their insightful vision for Canada:

  • First prize: Haohan Zhang, Grade 12, AY Jackson Secondary School, North York, Ont., won first prize for her essay “Canada’s Next Challenge: Implementing a Carbon Pricing Policy”;
  • Second prize: Kayla Evans, Merveille Massamba and Randesh Wijesundera, Grade 11, Francis Libermann Catholic High School, Scarborough, Ont., won second prize for “A Call for Canada’s Vision,” their co-authored submission that addressed issues of youth homelessness, affordable housing and educational qualifications for political leaders;
  • Third prize: Hanlin Cheng, Grade 12, Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute, North York, won third prize for the essay “Microscopic Change: The Ethical Dilemma of Scientific Policy.”
Above: From left, PPASA President Sukhpreet Singh, award winner Haohan Zhang and Professor Joanne Magee, Undergraduate Program Director

The evening concluded with the presentation of two coveted alumni awards by SPPA Director Alena Kimakova. The Emerging Leader Award went to Yana Gravets, a graduate of the Specialized Honours BPA in the Policy Analysis stream in 2011, cum laude on the Dean’s Honour Roll, while also completing the Professional Certificate in Human Resources Management at York.

Above: From left, SPPA Director and Professor Alena Kimakova with Yana Gravets

Upon graduation, Gravets secured a position with the prestigious Finance Officers Municipal Internship Program with the City of Burlington and was later promoted to a permanent financial analyst role, with a primary focus on the city’s capital budget and corporate projects. During this time, she also completed the MPPAL program, graduating in 2013. In 2014, she secured the position of senior budget and policy advisor with the Office of the Budget at York Region. In 2018, she was promoted by York Region to the position of head of policy, planning and liaison, Finance Commissioner’s Office. Without a doubt, Gravets’ new role at York Region is one of leadership and strategic importance, and a remarkable achievement.

Above: From left, SPPA Director and Professor Alena Kimakova with alumnus Shaun Kuttiyil

The Alumni Recognition Award went to Shaun Kuttiyil, a 2011 graduate of the Specialized Honours BPA program in the Policy Analysis stream and a 2015 graduate of the MPPAL, for his long-standing service to the school. As an undergraduate student, Kuttiyil held the position of president of the PPASA and received the SPPA Student Award. Since his graduation from the MPPAL program in 2015, he has been active in the York University School of Public Policy & Administration Alumni Network (YUSPPAAN), volunteering as treasurer until 2018 when he took on the role of Chair. Throughout these years, Kuttiyil has also served as a mentor and role model for the school’s students in the BPA program, helping to strengthen their team-building capabilities, and as an avid organizer of the YUSPPAAN Book Club that brings together alumni, students and faculty for a unique combination of intellectual stimulation and networking. He has worked in both the public and private sectors, starting as an administration officer at B2B Bank, and currently holds the position of senior program analyst, Fiscal Oversight & Performance Branch, Corporate Services Division, with the Ontario Ministry of Health & Long-Term Care.

Alumna Tanya Waugh served as Master of Ceremonies for the event

As part of its annual tradition, the evening was moderated by last year’s Alumni Recognition Award winner, Tanya Waugh, a 2013 graduate of the Specialized Honours BPA program in the Policy Analysis stream and a 2015 graduate of MPPAL. Also in attendance were the school’s advisory committee members, President Emeritus Ian Macdonald and Anthea English, the former assistant comptroller general for internal audit at the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, who joined SPPA as its executive in residence during the 2017-18 academic year; and Associate Dean Students Peter Avery of the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies.

Above: From left, Sukhpreet Singh (PPASA President), Stephanie Iacobacci (Department Head, Canadian & World Studies & Social Sciences, Francis Libermann CHS), Grade 11 Francis Libermann CHS students Merveille Massamba, Randesh Wijesundera, Kayla Evans and Undergraduate Program Director and Professor Joanne Magee