I completed my master's degree in 2011 - a lifetime ago, I thought.  

It was an interesting time: I'd been in Vancouver during the Olympics and had just finished an undergraduate degree in global political economy and labour studies, while writing an honours thesis on policy making and governance.  

My masters degree was another interesting time: I lived in Toronto, went through some emotional and mental ups and downs, wrote a theory-based thesis on Argentina in 2001 (then, less than 10 years earlier), and successfully defended it.  Most of my class at York were writing on Latin American in some sense, and I was no outlier.  My absolute favourite class, though, was in York's democratic administration[1] program, where we wrestled with the concept of administration - public, corporate, etc. - in the contexts of a democratic society and legal system. I loved that class.

I left Toronto and returned to Vancouver, and worked in a succession of jobs: the Bar Association with amazing nonprofit and social justice lawyers; UBC in academic governance; the co-op and credit union world; and finally onto a role in public policy with a provincial authority.

And it seemed that I'd be happy where I was for a while - I had still chased dreams of completing a PhD at some point in the future, but things conspired against me.  I applied for studies in Hong Kong, but the vagaries of granting meant I missed an opportunity to study in one of my favourite cities in the world.  Probably for the best, though, given my proposed topics of study.

Life in my public policy job has been pretty good.  I get to try my hand at advancing policy solutions to sometimes pressing and important problems.  I can try to raise the voice of the public in my work.  I can look at legislation advancing through the House and know the tiny role I played in making (a technical) change to something important in the province.

I'm not going to lie, though - academia always called me.

In 2020, during the campaign around the failure of Mountain Equipment Co-op, I was reintroduced to friends and colleagues across the country working on the issue of cooperatives.  I was reminded of the impressive work people in Quebec are doing around the spirit of cooperativism and building community-based enterprises that are different.  And I was reminded why academia called me.

This September, I was thrilled to start a PhD program at the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School in Public Policy at the University of Saskatchewan.  I'll be pursuing a path of studies related to cooperatives - exploring how they can be policy tools that are community-owned, community-built, and community-directed.  I'll also be exploring their downsides - why they may not solve market failures, or why they can become disconnected from members and the domain of an elite few.

But all in all I am reminded of what I'm passionate about: communities, building common value and common good, and helping understand and propose solutions to complex and complicated problems.

I'm back to class, and that's good.

[1] See https://futurestudents.yorku.ca/graduate/programs/diplomas/democratic-administration.