Dr. Michael Atkinson (Ph.D.) is a visionary, true leader, mentor and inspiration to all students and alumni who have passed through our halls. His commitment to excellence in the public sector, in Saskatchewan and across Canada, is the reason behind his passion for educating the next generation of public policy professionals.

A gift to The Michael Atkinson and Heather McWhinney Scholarship for Student Success will directly support Master of Public Policy and Doctoral students in the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School who demonstrate academic and research excellence. Preference will be given to students whose research focuses on governance.

To demonstrate our appreciation to Michael, the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School has launched The Michael Atkinson and Heather McWhinney Scholarship for Student Success campaign. Help us reach our 2020 goal! In addition to receiving a charitable tax donation receipt, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that every dollar raised will go to support students at the school's University of Saskatchewan and University of Regina campuses.

Michael Atkinson's Legacy

Michael Atkinson’s entire career in academia—as a researcher, teacher, commentator, and for the last two decades as an academic administrator—has been deeply rooted in public policy, political institutions, and public administration.

He began his career working mostly on parliamentary institutions in the Canadian provinces and at the federal level. In the 1980s, his energies shifted toward public policy, and he co-authored papers and a University of Toronto Press book that argued for a policy networks approach within a political economy framework. In the 1990s, Michael’s research focus shifted once again, this time toward the study of political corruption and political ethics. In 1995, came the most significant change of all, when Michael entered academic administration at the senior level, first at McMaster University followed soon after by the University of Saskatchewan (USask).

When he assumed the role of USask provost and vice-president academic in 1997, Michael’s strong and effective leadership permeated the institution and extended beyond the boundaries of campus, deep into the province of Saskatchewan. During his two terms in this role, Michael led and implemented a series of significant improvements within USask relating to organizational structure, funding, academic programming, the student experience, and research. He also played a vital role in a number of government and other external initiatives aimed at governing and improving higher education in Saskatchewan.

In the early 2000s, Michael was instrumental in the creation of the provincial public policy school, the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy (JSGS). Following a one-school, two-campus model, the JSGS was co-situated at both the University of Regina and the University of Saskatchewan. This form of intense cross-university collaboration is unique in Canadian universities and speaks to both Michael’s vision and administrative skills as the JSGS’s first Executive Director.

With hundreds of alumni across the country and around the world, the school's success would not have been possible without Michael Atkinson. 

We thank Michael for his vision, leadership and commitment to excellence in the public sector in Saskatchewan and across Canada. Help us honour him by contributing to The Michael Atkinson and Heather McWhinney Scholarship for Student Success.

Student, Alumni and Colleague Testimonials

As colleagues of Michael, we encourage you to share your memories of your time working alongside him or under his guidance.


"Dr. Michael Atkinson has been a tremendous administrator, a world-class researcher, and someone whose career in academia has had a profound impact on the University of Saskatchewan, the province of Saskatchewan, the country of Canada and beyond. A champion of interdisciplinary research and teaching, Michael was a key agent in the development of the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School, which became a unique cross-university collaboration previously unheard of in the Canadian post-secondary sector. At the institutional level, his leadership is part of the reason for the success and growth we have experienced at the University of Saskatchewan over the past two decades. Through both his academic and administrative work, Dr. Atkinson has been a major contributor to healthy governance practices in public organizations." 
- Peter Stoicheff, President, University of Saskatchewan

"One of Michael Atkinson's distinguishing characteristics is his breadth of vision. In a few short years, the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School has become a force to reckon with on the national public policy landscape. Its teaching, its research, its professional education, and perhaps above all the quality of its graduates flow from a vision of academic collaboration, of drawing on the complementary strengths of two institutions to achieve a whole greater than the sum of its parts. Michael's role in bringing that vision to life is central and indisputable. The University of Saskatchewan and the University of Regina are the richer for it, as are the lives of citizens from coast to coast who benefit from JSGS's contributions to progressive, thoughtful public policy."
- Thomas Chase, Interim President and Vice-Chancellor, University of Regina

"I feel so incredibly fortunate to have been one of the students to take the last class Michael taught at JSGS. Taking a class from Michael is like going on a really interesting and enlightening intellectual journey and I learned a great deal working with him. For many of us, the PhD. program is a new beginning and our cohort had very different education and career backgrounds, each coming with very different skill sets. Often, we did not see these skills as very useful in a Phd. program. Michael helped many of us to see the strengths in our skills where we had initially only seen weaknesses. Even after his retirement, Michael has continued to mentor many of us. As a Métis person, working within the academy can be intimidating. Michael's insights and the value he places on all knowledge have really helped me to see the academy as a place of exploration and empowerment, and a place where I belong. It is all part of this unique way he has of helping you really explore a question and learn to answer it for yourself. I do not know how many professors and administrators work so diligently with their students, even after retirement. But, I am very happy to see someone, whom I greatly respect, getting much-deserved recognition for doing so."
- Merelda Fiddler-Potter, PhD alumna, Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy

"Michael Atkinson was the reason I was introduced to the JSGS—he was a well-known figure at McMaster University, my other Alma Mater. I was part of the first cohort to have joined JSGS’s MPP program when it commenced in 2009. During my stay at JSGS, I was extremely fortunate to have had the chance to work with Michael on a research project on Public Finance. That project gave me the chance to learn from him, and to get to know him better—he has been truly inspirational! His generous way of imparting knowledge, his leadership and more importantly, his interest in the personal and professional development of his students were always on display. He truly instilled in me a passion for research and gave me the confidence to trust my instincts as a researcher.

Looking back, I can definitely say that Michael is one of the biggest reasons I have achieved success in my academic and professional career. He has been a guide, a coach, a mentor and a leader—and I will always be proud to say that I was one of his students and research associates!"
- Ata-Ul Munim, Policy Advisor, Privy Council Office, and Alumnus, Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy

"Michael Atkinson has been a wonderful colleague, mentor and friend to me.  He is a world-class scholar with a rare combination of attributes including intellect, curiosity, vision, insight, drive, and humility. I have truly enjoyed our interdisciplinary teamwork. Michael is an inspiring and patient mentor, willing to invest time in people and always ready to encourage and empower them. His mentorship is invaluable to my research and career. What I value the most, though, is Michael’s personality. He always sees the best in others. I am fortunate to know him, and I look up to him as a role model.  My professional and personal growth at JSGS has been greatly aided by his guidance and help. Thank you, Michael!" 
- Haizhen Mou, Associate Professor, Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy 

"Dr. Atkinson’s contribution to the public sector is unparalleled when seen through the combination of scholarship and administrative excellence. He has an amazing understanding of government and all of the elements of good governance. He is thoughtful, and creative, and has a unique way of bringing out the best in those he encounters. He also does what he does with style and humour.
- Dan Perrins, former Executive-in-Residence, Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy

Donate Now

Help us honour Michael Atkinson and his legacy by contributing to The Michael Atkinson and Heather McWhinney Scholarship for Student Success.