Nathalie Atanasova researched many master’s programs from around the world looking for the perfect fit. The Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy’s (JSGS) Master in Public Administration (MPA) program was the obvious choice for her based on its location in Canada, extensive network opportunities in the public sector, and collaboration between two universities—the University of Saskatchewan (USask) and the University of Regina (U of R).
Atanasova is originally from Bulgaria and has a background in international studies focussing on Russia and Eurasia. Her growing interest in many aspects of politics and the public sector inspired her search for a public administration program.
“I have been interested in how political economy interacts with cultural identity in different socio-historical contexts. Pursuing the MPA program was a natural continuation of my career and a very valuable one too,” said Atanasova.
Because of the school’s collaborative nature, Atanasova knew that JSGS would have a great network, but the connections she made with students, faculty, and professionals in organizations and different areas of government exceeded her expectations.
“It takes enormous effort to build a network on your own, especially if you are new to Canada. JSGS offers lots of opportunities to network and to explore your interests and strengths.”
An exceptional student, Atanasova had the opportunity to travel to Quebec for the 2020 National Public Administration Case Competition which took place on February 20-23 2020, and also landed a competitive Executive Internship in the Ministry of Finance with the Government of Saskatchewan. She knew there would be a learning curve while settling into her new role in government, but she was surprised by how much she was already able to apply from her studies.
“JSGS set me up for success in this internship and future job opportunities in the public service by teaching good research skills and giving me the ability to synthesize and express ideas more efficiently, which has been very helpful for me as an international student,” said Atanasova.
Throughout her internship she was able to practice these skills while participating in the ongoing negotiations and communication that are necessary to ensure policies are successfully implemented.
In classes, Atanasova was blown away by the quality and degree of challenging conversations, which were always followed by highly satisfying moments where the theories learned in class were connected with larger discussions. Specifically, JSGS 862 Political Economy, instructed by Murray Fulton, was challenging and profoundly rewarding.
“The topics in Professor Fulton’s class were very well selected in a way that complimented and contrasted each other, giving a good sense about the theories and relationships in the study of political economy. We also learned a lot about reading articles in a more meaningful way,” said Atanasova. “I also got to work with some very thoughtful and intelligent colleagues, which made group work something to look forward to. The level of conversation was certainly challenging, but it is an amazing feeling to get that click in your head when things suddenly start to make sense.”
Atanasova is leaving JSGS at a great jumping-off point—confident in her ability to explore positions in the public sector. Although she is no longer a student, she is looking forward to keeping in touch with the network she has established over her time at JSGS.
“I am still on my journey to finding a career in public policy that I am passionate about and enjoy doing, and I am very happy to be able to rely on the support of the JSGS community.”
She urges prospective students to trust the learning process even when they feel overwhelmed, knowing that their resilience will pay off in the end. She knows the JSGS community will support future students the same way she was supported.
“Be involved and make the most out of it! JSGS offers a lot, and it can be overwhelming at times, but this is where you really get to know yourself and your limits. JSGS is one of the best places to try and fail because the professors and the whole staff will be there to help you move on and most importantly learn from it constructively.”