Sushant Sharma always had an interest in working in the government. With a background as an engineer working in India, he probably didn’t expect that government to be found in the heart of Canada.
Working for the Government of Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Highways is a far stretch — figuratively and literally — from New Delhi, India. And Sharma wouldn’t be in Saskatchewan without the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy (JSGS).
“As international students, when we plan for our education in Canada, the financial component plays a big role,” he said. The risk component which I took in 2019, planning for this education and investing in my career, has fared very nicely for me.”
Sharma is a student of the JSGS’s Master of Public Administration program, slated to graduate in 2023. He began to look into public policy schools just before and during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019.
The JSGS was one of three schools in Canada that immediately caught his attention — and the opportunities it provided to him are what sold him on pursuing his Master’s degree here.
“It has some really good components to the program, providing opportunities to interact with government officials,” Sharma said. “We get senior officials to be part of the course curriculum, as executives-in-residence or guest lecturers, and we get many options to connect with them.”
“The other component is the JSGS internship. Many of the schools out there providing MPA or MPP courses across Canada don’t have this… this went along with my plans.”
Sharma initially studied engineering in India, earning himself a Bachelor of Engineering (with honours). His work and determination quickly led him into the public sector, working with the Government of India on various jobs ranging from government relations to project management and more.
After more than 10 years working with the government, Sharma’s interest was drawn more and more towards public policy. So, he turned his attention towards Canada and the MPA program at JSGS.
“The program offers a mix of different policy subjects, be it specific to policy analysis, economics or strategic management — how we should make meaningful decisions,” he said. “It provides a good understanding of the overall context for the field.”
Sharma began the program remotely because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but was still able to take part in the Executive Internship Program that had attracted him to the school.
Sharma’s internship opportunity was through the City of Regina, where he was quickly able to connect with people working in the kinds of industry that interested him.
“I applied for the internship program in 2022, and I was accepted into the municipal government,” he said. “I was working with the Business & Development division, where I had the opportunity as an associate to work on four different projects in the city office with the team of the Director of Planning.”
But the internship program wouldn’t be Sharma’s only chance to apply what he was learning from JSGS. Sharma was also involved in the National Public Administration Case Competition, run jointly by the Canadian Association of Programs in Public Administration (CAPPA) and the Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC).
Through the case competition, students get the opportunity to work in teams in a reflection of real work in the public sector. As a team, the students are required to examine and analyze a prescient public administration scenario they could theoretically encounter working in the field.
In the winter of 2022, Sharma’s team placed second in the country. Their presentation revolved around recommendations to their provincial governments on how to help and interact with the homeless and homelessness encampments.
“It was an honour for me to be a part of the case competition,” Sharma said. “Six of us as a team, we had the chance to represent USask and the U of R. We were the face of the school for this competition … we had (Saskatchewan) ministry officials who guided us, and JSGS alumni who coached us.”
Sharma lauded the opportunity he had to meet and work with various officials of the provincial and federal government during the case study competition.
“The competition overall helped me to develop myself, as well as gain understanding around public policy and how different levels of the government work,” he said.
Now, as Sharma looks ahead to his graduation from the program in the spring of 2023, there aren’t many regrets. His time at the JSGS has led him to a new career in a new country, expanding his knowledge and opening new doors and creating exciting opportunities.
One of those opportunities isn’t related to work, either. For the first time, Sharma will have the opportunity to walk across the stage and properly graduate with his Master of Public Administration degree. He’ll even have some family and colleagues in the crowd to cheer on his achievement.
It’s been a few years in the making, but for Sharma, his journey to Canada to study at JSGS is all paying off.
“What I planned back then in 2019, applying for the program, and where I saw myself, I’m really happy to achieve and go through this learning process at JSGS,” he said. “Everything has worked the way I planned for, and I’m totally satisfied with it.”