Department of Global Development Studies

DEPARTMENT OF

Global Development Studies

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Alumni Profiles

What do I do with a DEVS degree?

A degree in Global Development Studies leads to a wide range of career choices and options for further study. A global perspective gives students a comprehensive view of the world, while our interdisciplinary focus exposes students to fields as diverse as economics, health studies, politics, media, religion and history. Work placements offer further opportunities to gain experience in the field and to network internationally.

Our alumni are working throughout the world and across Canada.  Many choose to work with development agencies such as CIDA and Amnesty International, or with United Nations bodies. Some are involved in policy making with governments. Others have gone into journalism, television and documentary film making. A number of graduates have become teachers in Canada and abroad, and many have completed professional degrees in law or business. Some have continued in academia and are now professors themselves. Several students have started their own non-profit development agencies and many are working in the private sector in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Your Future

DEVS BA Alumni

Christie Campbell, BA (Hons), 2012, JD, 2014

Christie Campbell

I chose DEVS because I wanted to become more aware of the world and the complicated interactions between people, states, and private actors. While in DEVS, I worked with the Queen’s Project on International Development (QPID) in a variety of roles. I also participated in the work-study program in my summer after third year. In this program, I worked with the Foundation for Post Conflict Development in New York.

I left DEVS and immediately went to law school at the University of Toronto. I decided that law school was the right place for me because it would provide skills that I could use in applying the knowledge and understandings I received from DEVS. My three years at law school were some of the best of my life, and I believe that the critical thinking skills I developed in my time at Queen’s really helped me though this academically challenging program.

Following law school, I now have a practice in corporate-commercial civil litigation. Again, being able to tie complex ideas together, and to look at various sides of every issue, is invaluable in this career.

You may end up in a very different place then you expected heading into a DEVS degree – but the appetite for questions that you will learn in your time at Queen’s will help you wherever you end up.

Stephanie Diepeveen, BA (Hons), 2008, MA, PhD

Stephanie Diepeveen

Global Development Studies at Queen’s was formative in helping me to develop a critical and inquisitive approach to scholarship, and sparking a strong interest in global affairs. DEVS was the first opportunity I had to study the history and politics of development, in Canada and internationally. The DEVS faculty and course structure forced me to contend with some of my own biases and privileges - in ways that have stuck with me in my subsequent work and studies.

The programme’s emphasis on work-study abroad experience was particularly eye-opening. This was not simply in the emphasis on international engagement and learning, but the imperative to do so with a critical eye, constantly aware to the complex and often negative - implications of ‘development tourism’. Through DEVS, I worked with a small microcredit NGO in coastal Kenya, and was challenged to do so with a critical lens on the varied aspects of my interactions. This experience was particularly memorable, shaping what I hope has become a more reflective and thoughtful approach to further work and study.

Immediately after graduating from Queen’s University, I went on to complete a Master’s in Development Studies at the University of Cambridge. From here, still unsure of the sort of career I wanted to pursue, I took up a junior analyst position at an international policy research organisation. Again the critical approach to research developed through DEVS proved key, providing me with a framework from which to thoughtfully contribute to monitoring and evaluation of international education and welfare projects in my work. Through this experience, I discovered that the critical and reflexive approach to research taught through DEVS is particularly valuable and even rare. It challenges current practice, in which critical thinking can be lost amidst fast-paced and short-term research projects. And also lay a groundwork that challenged me to take a self-critical approach to my own work.

After a few years working as a consultant, I returned to complete a PhD at the University of Cambridge, looking at the intersection of politics, digital technology and development in coastal Kenya. Again I cannot emphasise enough how much the discussions with fellow students and faculty (TAs and staff!) and courses at DEVS have shaped my subsequent studies – forming a strong foundation from which I aim to deepen understanding and question orthodoxy in academia.

Take advantage of the opportunities for debate and discussion with the people you meet in DEVS. These conversations and relationships were much more formative to my own personal and academic growth than I perhaps realised at the time! Also, have the confidence to continually raise questions and critique current scholarship and practice.

Take advantage of the opportunities for debate and discussion with the people you meet in DEVS. These conversations and relationships were much more formative to my own personal and academic growth than I perhaps realised at the time! Also, have the confidence to continually raise questions and critique current scholarship and practice.

Katherine Fernandez-Blance, BA (Hons), 2013, MPC

Katherine Fernandez-Blance

Since high school, I’ve been very interested in social justice and human rights issues around the world. DEVS seemed like the perfect fit to allow me to explore my interests in this field. I was keen to discover this outside of the classroom as well and I was involved in Queen’s Project for International Development (QPID) for most of my time at Queen’s. I started as a committee member and then became the Forum and Advocacy Coordinator in my third year. I also did a summer QPID internship in Ghana following my fifth year.

In addition to QPID, I also enjoyed participating in several of the development-focused conferences held on campus each year. After attending Queen’s International Development Conference (QIDC) for a few years, I became co-chair of the conference in my third year.

I spent the bulk of my years at Queen’s working for the Queen’s Journal and eventually becoming Editor in Chief in my final year. After holding a few internships at major daily newspapers, I decided to focus my career on communications. I began volunteering with a legal non-profit as their Director of Social Media and Communications and then began my marketing career working for a software company focused on higher education.

I decided that I wanted to enhance my credentials and returned to school after two years to complete my Masters in Professional Communication at Ryerson University. I am coming to the end of the one-year program and am currently completing an internship in the Brand Marketing department at the University of Toronto. I plan on continuing my marketing career in higher education for the time being but would love to return to development work at a global NGO or a CSR-focused corporation stationed out of London or New York City one day.

DEVS has definitely taught me how to think critically and engage with development discourse. No matter which career path I end up choosing, I now have the knowledge and experience to assess how my work will create global impact.

Think beyond what you’re being taught in the classroom and try to gain experiences that will help you land your dream job after you graduate. It’s okay to not know exactly what you want to do, but try to make yourself as attractive to employers as possible. Simply put – find your passion and immerse yourself in experiences that will help you explore this passion from multiple angles.

Rebecca Gill, BA (Hons), 2011, JD

Rebecca Gill

The DEVS community was where I met some of my dearest and closest friends, even though some of us are now spread out all over the world – these are some of the people who know me the best. I chose to major in DEVS because of its commitment to developing critical thinking skills and working towards social justice.  I really loved Dia Da Costa’s “Theatre and Development” course and working through my thesis with Paritosh Kumar, the support of the faculty in building creative learning spaces was one of the reasons I appreciated being a part of the DEVS program.

After graduation I wasn’t sure what I was going to do – I had gone through some personal/family tragedies towards the end of third year and knew I wanted to be back home in BC but couldn’t seem to think much farther than that.  I thought I may go into policy, research or law but wasn’t really ready to make a decision yet. Through a series of events, I ended up being the sole support staff at Dhanu Dhaliwal Law Corporation (ddlaw), a small boutique law firm in my hometown of Abbotsford, BC whose lawyers practiced family law, criminal defence and immigration.  At this time I was also assisting as one of the primary caregivers for my elderly grandparents.  It was during my year at ddlaw that I really began to see a space for myself in the practice of law and back on the West Coast.

I was accepted to the Faculty of Law at the University of Victoria (UVic).  The culture of community and support that I found in Victoria complemented the critical thinking and social justice perspective of the DEVS Program and made for a great fit.  At UVic I was involved in the local activist community that focused on challenging the criminalization of poverty and the increased policing of street-involved people.  I also reconnected with other DEVS graduates and we facilitated the development of equity training and anti-oppression workshops for law students.  After graduating from UVic, I articled at a great mid-sized firm in Vancouver, BC where I gained exposure to a wide range of practice areas, I found this really helped me to figure out what kind of law I wanted to practice and what type of lawyer I wanted to be.

I’ve accepted a job at ddlaw back in Abbotsford, BC to commence after my articles are over.  The firm has grown since I left and is now the local agent for the Legal Services Society (i.e. legal aid) in Abbotsford and Chilliwack.  I am looking forward to returning and building my legal career in my home community, while also contributing to the development of legal clinics and programs to increase access to legal services in the Fraser Valley.

I’m not sure what the future will hold but I hope that a commitment to social justice, critical thinking and anti-oppressive practices will keep me grounded in the next part of this adventure!

Don’t be afraid to trust yourself – no one knows you better than yourself so give yourself space to breathe when you need it and take those meaningful risks when you can!

Parisa Jiwa, BA (Hons), 2011

Parisa Jiwa

I am passionate about alleviating poverty, and have been dedicated to social justice since immigrating to Canada. Committed to understanding the visible differences of impoverishment between Kenya and Canada, I pursued a degree in Global Development Studies at Queen’s University. To supplement my classroom learning and improve my academic performance, I consistently attended seminars on national and international development that often times discussed and linked social justice, international, humanitarian, environmental and women’s rights law. The answers I found in my studies led me to medial in Gender Studies in my third year and pursue a legal education. My aggregate learning has helped me digest the realities of Kenya’s development and has spawned questions about the access to justice of Aboriginal people in Canada.

Currently I am in my last year and last semester of pursing my lifelong dream of attending law school. During the interim of my studies I have acted on my concern for social justice in many ways. I did my best to make a difference in the Kingston community by volunteering at the Children’s Aid Society as a life- book creator, sorting through legal documents of crown ward children and creating a storybook for each child so they would better understand their situation when they were removed from the care of their family. Their stories of violence and neglect shocked me, but fuelled my concerns for social justice and inspired me to seek relevant information from my studies. I also volunteered and attended a Muslim women’s empowerment committee, BELIEF, chaired by Queen’s Ismaili Muslim Student’s Association. I have participated in blood drives, food drives and clothing drives. I run half marathon distances annually to champion funds for disease research and prevention, such as breast and ovarian cancer. Annually, my family and I volunteer at The Partnership Walk in Calgary, setting up tents and distributing food and information about poverty inflicted countries such as Kenya. I have returned to Kenya on multiple occasions for internships, at Esmail and Esmail Advocates (a law firm) and at the Aga Khan Development Network headquarters in Nairobi.

Expand your learning with as many seminars as possible. Not only will they give you fantastic ideas for those difficult papers, they will help you digest the interdisciplinary nature of Global Development Studies.

Erin Keenan, BA (Hons), 2014, MMM

Erin Keenan

During my undergraduate studies at Queen’s, I completed a medial in Environmental Studies and Global Development Studies. I chose this combination because I was looking for an interdisciplinary program and I was compelled by the opportunity to take classes that drew on methods and concepts from history, geography, economics, ecology, sociology, and many other areas. I was also interested in gaining a better understanding of the connections between environmental and social justice issues, and over the course of my degree developed a particular interest in the relationships between environmental management, indigenous rights, and Aboriginal-settler relationships in Canada. The Global Development Studies program enabled me to explore this interest through Aboriginal issues-focused courses, while also providing me with a valuable understanding of how the global political economy influences social and environmental justice across many levels. I found that Global Development Studies, along with Environmental Studies, allowed me to pursue a broad range of interrelated topics and in doing so, helped me identify fields of interest for my career.

Following my graduation from Queen’s, I completed my Master’s of Marine Management (MMM) through the Marine Affairs Program at Dalhousie University. My graduate work explored the relationship between Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (traditional knowledge) and the narwhal management system in Nunavut and built on many of the skills I had developed in my courses in Global Development Studies, especially the ability to critically analyse information from interdisciplinary perspectives. From a career perspective, I found that undertaking a professionally oriented Master’s program was critical in helping me understand how to apply the academic skills I obtained through my undergraduate studies to practical work and developing confidence in my own “employability.”

After finishing my graduate program, I began working at the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board in Iqaluit, Nunavut as a wildlife management biologist. The NWMB coordinates co-management of wildlife in Nunavut. My position involves coordinating with diverse stakeholders from government, Inuit organizations, communities, industry, and other groups to inform wildlife management decision-making.

Alex Laidlaw, BA (Hons), 2012

Alex Laidlaw

During my time at Queen’s, I was privileged to have many opportunities, both inside and outside of the classroom, to explore “development”. Academically, I participated in DEVS410, completing a summer internship at a microfinance organization in Lima, Peru. I was able, through pure persistence, to get into seminar courses in both history and politics, which helped deepen the interdisciplinary nature of the DEVS program. And after completing my degree in Global Development, I also chose to return for a fifth year and complete a second BA (Hons) degree in Economics. Through all of these pursuits, a diversity of perspectives helped to shape a broad academic outlook.

In terms of extra-curriculars, core to my experience was Queen’s Project on International Development (QPID). I volunteered with QPID in some capacity every year, including serving as General Director in 2011-12. More than any other class or opportunity, my time at university was defined by incredible people I had a chance to work with at QPID – friends who continue to inspire me with their ambitious endeavours and accomplishments.

My path since graduation, thus far, has led to work in philanthropy and fundraising. I moved back to Calgary and returned to a position I had worked the previous summer, an administrative role with the Calgary Stampede Foundation. That experience working for large-scale capital campaign helped me secure a job with the RESOLVE Campaign. I originally took the position with the intent of saving some money in the short-term, to return to school and pursue a Master’s / PhD in the development sociology field. Two and a half years later, the role has broadened my horizons and left me re-thinking that long-term plan.

RESOLVE is an innovative collaboration of nine agencies in the homeless-serving sector raising $120 million to build affordable and supported rental housing for 3,000 vulnerable and homeless Calgarians. In my current role as Manager of Campaign Services, I lead a team responsible for navigating our network of relationships and the complexities of information management necessary for strong fundraising strategy and execution. Working in collective impact, where non-profits are re-imagining how they work together to solve complex problems, has opened my eyes to the potential to transform and improve how non-profits operate.

The most important skill I took away from my time in DEVS is the capacity to think critically about what it means to work in the development field. Although I’m inspired every day by the work I currently do, I also acknowledge there are limits to social change that can be achieved through philanthropy. Being unflinchingly critical, especially in self-reflection, is an ability I attribute to the DEVS program. Value your time at Queen’s as a unique chance to question everything, and test the boundaries of what you believe. I don’t yet know where my career will lead or which choices lay ahead, but I do know DEVS played an essential role calibrating the internal compass I trust to find my way.

Jenny Liu, BA (Hons), 2011, MPA

Jenny Liu

I choose DEVS because of my personal interest in international socio-economic issues (I spent my high school years in Taiwan and had participated in some international volunteer projects), flexibility in course selection in the program (ability to take courses from different ArtSci departments), and DEVS 410 (work placement opportunity).

I completed my DEVS 410 summer work placement in Washington, DC at the World Bank. It was enlightening to work in an organization that we debated with a critical lens in class. I conducted research on the World Bank’s community-driven development program, and interviewed many World Bank staff, as well as international NGO representatives, as part of the project. DC is also an awesome city to visit and explore – a fun anecdote, I bumped into Michelle Obama (and her entourage of friends and security team) near my apartment while walking home from work one day. She was getting pizza.

I was involved with multiple extracurricular clubs throughout university, which helped put my studies into action, and broadened my undergraduate experience. Of note, I was the communications officer for Queen’s Project on International Development (QPID), where I met some fantastic people who I still keep in touch with today. The mandate of QPID is also very action-oriented while being critically-minded, and it was an amazing opportunity to contribute to fostering critical debates on campus.

I was also part of the DEVS departmental student council for two years, which connected me with the broader student population as well as the professors in the DEVS program.

After I graduated from Queen’s, I completed a one-year paid internship in municipal government. I learned unexpectedly about this internship through a DEVS prof (who put me in touch with the alum who had previously done the internship). I chose this opportunity because I thought it could give me practical experience in community development (to further my understanding of building local change within a globalized context), in addition to learning skills such as project management and policy research and development. It was through this experience that I decided to build my career towards the public sector.

After the internship, I entered the Master of Public Administration (MPA) program at the University of Victoria in BC. I chose this particular MPA program because it has a significant co-op component (up to three work terms), and I really wanted (and needed) the work experience.

I completed my first co-op term as a Junior Policy Officer at the Canadian Human Rights Commission, where I conducted policy research on domestic and international human rights issues.

I completed both my second and third co-op terms at Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), and was subsequently hired as permanent staff. I am currently an Analyst working on ECCC’s corporate management and performance files.

To keep up with my interest in global issues, I have recently signed on to be an incoming Board Member with thePANEL organization. thePANEL is a non-partisan group in Ottawa that organizes interactive and energetic panel discussions and networking sessions twice a year, on hot topics related to Canada in the world.

In terms of career development during and after DEVS, I have three quick thoughts:

First: “Informational interviews” are a fantastic way to learn about what different jobs entail before making a decision to go down a particular path. It can also potentially connect you with people with the ability to hire. Pop an email if cold-calling a stranger is not your cup of tea.

Second: There is no pressure to know your exact career direction right after graduation. Unless you are super passionate about something and know for sure that it’s what you want to do, don’t be afraid to take time to try out different things. It will go a long way in helping you figure out next steps in your career.

Third: Get work experience – if exploring further education, consider programs with co-op components. This is especially key if you want to work in the public sector since it can be challenging to enter provincial or federal government as an external candidate.

Kallan Lyons, BA (Hons), 2011

Sarah Munsch

I switched into DEVS in my second year, after speaking to a friend who mentioned she loved the program. I’d always had an interest in international development and it was the best choice I could have made. Taking part in various student clubs enhanced my student experience, most memorably: I volunteered for 3 years on the DEVS DSC, with Queen’s Rotaract Club, and as a reporter with Queen’s TV. I also participated in an international exchange to New Zealand- an opportunity I highly recommend. A highlight of my time at Queen’s was taking part in two humanitarian trips to El Salvador with Rotaract. The classroom gave me the tools to think critically about international service projects, and having the practical experience complimented my degree.

After graduating, I taught ESL for a few months before taking a leap of faith and moving to Toronto to find work. I landed my first job in communications with a non-profit called Homes First, which provides affordable, stable housing and supports for Toronto’s homeless.

In 2013 I spent 6 months as a CIDA intern in Ghana with Journalists for Human Rights, an organization focused on media development. As an Education Officer, I worked with students at a university to cover human rights stories.

After my internship I returned to Homes First in a new role as Community Development Coordinator. My job is to create programming to help our clients maintain their housing. Creating more affordable housing is currently a hot topic, and is a reminder that there are a lot of people who need assistance here in Canada. Outside of work, I have continued to pursue my passion for international development in my volunteer role as International Service Director with the Rotaract Club of Toronto.

Try to get involved in at least a couple of extra-curriculars it’s a great way to meet new people, expand your resume and enjoy your time as a university student. For all that hard work, you deserve some play! Employers look for experience (including volunteer) and personal attributes, not your marks.

Try to get involved in at least a couple of extra-curriculars -- it’s a great way to meet new people, expand your resume and enjoy your time as a university student. For all that hard work, you deserve some play! Employers look for experience (including volunteer) and personal attributes, not your marks.

If you’re looking for a job in the non-profit/NGO world after graduating, I highly suggest looking for organizations that interest you, and contacting them to see how you can get involved. At the end of the day, people like to invest in people (not necessarily because you tick all the boxes), so get your foot in the door and prove that you’re an awesome volunteer whom they want on their team full-time. Checking out this page is a good start -- you never know where it could land you! (Sending an e-mail to someone on the alumni page is what kick-started my career.)

Victoria (Tori) Moore, BA (Hons), 2011, JD

Victoria Moore

I chose DEVS because I didn’t want to commit to any single degree program—the interdisciplinary aspect of the program hooked me. At the time of selecting DEVS as a major, I had not yet taken DEVS 100, as I did my first year of studies at the Bader International Study Centre. The program turned out to be the best decision I made in undergrad. I often look back on my time in this program as a turning point in my life and career. My strong but incoherent interest in “global affairs” were both challenged and strengthened, and I was given new tools with which to interpret and interact with the world around me. For me, the most valuable part of the DEVS program was the incredible faculty members who constantly challenged me to look deeper, ask more, and assume nothing. I learned a way of critical thinking and analysis in DEVS that has been absolutely central to my successes post-graduation. Throughout my time in DEVS, I was involved in QPID—first at the committee member level, then as the Forum Coordinator, and finally, as the Campus and Community Director. I also opted to take DEVS 410/411 (Work Placement in Development Studies and Post-Placement Seminar). My work placement was with a small CBO in Mombasa, Kenya, where I engaged in field research to assist in establishing a legal aid/legal rights training program for women in the commercial sex industry, many of whom were trafficked.

After leaving Queen’s, I returned home to the interior of BC to work in a law firm. I worked in a department that assisted indigenous survivors of sexual and physical abuse from the residential school system in making claims through the Independent Assessment Process of the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement. After one year at that firm, I moved to Victoria, BC to complete my law degree. While at UVic Law, I was involved in various clubs that engaged in education and research relating to international and refugee law. I interned on a prosecution trial team at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague during one of my summers. I was also on a committee of students that designed and implemented mandatory diversity, communication and anti-oppression workshops for incoming first year law students. I also went on an exchange term to Singapore to take DEVS-related international law courses, including Law and Social Movements and Law and Development in South-East Asia. In my final year at UVic, I completed my major paper requirement through an analysis of Canada’s implementation of a specific article of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. I am currently clerking at the Federal Court of Canada in Ottawa.

DEVS has informed so much about my current career path and my initial experiences in the legal field. Aside from providing me with the tools to think critically and deconstruct certain positions and arguments, I have retained my focus on DEVS issues and my desire to make a positive impact in an informed manner.

Sara Munsch, BA (Hons), 2011, JD

Sarah Munsch

I chose DEVS because I was interested in world issues, discrepancies between the Global North and South, and had grown up abroad so it felt like the most "relevant" academic choice in terms of my background and interests.

During my time in DEVS, I interned for a microfinance NGO in Lima one summer, which was challenging in many ways, but really pushed me out of my comfort zone and I grew a lot that summer. It was a great opportunity to go in-depth into one aspect of development (microfinance). I really enjoyed the opportunity to get into the details of development in practice, which was a contrast to the more general discussions in DEVS classes. I would go back to Lima in an instant, and hopefully will soon! I also loved the post-placement seminar with Paritosh Kumar the following fall. I recall our discussions going more in-depth into development issues than any other course I took in DEVS.

I also co-chaired a conference that was called QIDC (Queen's International Development Conference) and developed a love for organizing events on issues that matter and that aren't necessarily discussed as much outside of DEVS classes. Most of the exec was from DEVS and most of my Queen's friends to this day were part of that conference so I definitely recall that as one of my best Queen's memories overall!

After DEVS, I decided to take a year off and spent half the year traveling and the other half working for an insurance company in Toronto. This wasn't "plan A" after DEVS, but working for a corporation was definitely an eye-opener and something that really helped bring the insights I gained from my DEVS degree in perspective. I experienced first-hand what outsourcing looks like, and got a sense of how firm-culture molds its employees into conformity and performance-oriented behaviour. I don't regret the experience at all, because I appreciated the insider's perspective (and also a personal and concrete reason to avoid this employment path in the future!)

I did my law degree at McGill and graduated in 2015. I chose McGill because of my ongoing interest for international issues. McGill's focus on human rights and international law appealed to me, and so did its bilingualism and double-degree in civil and common law. I remember feeling confused after my DEVS degree about what to do next, and hoped that a law degree would bring more direction to how I could put development studies in practice. I'm a fairly pragmatic person, and I knew I would be drawn to work in the development industry in the future (as opposed to academic work) but was not sure I wanted to work in development right away. I also knew I wanted to have another degree under my belt before starting my career, and a law degree seemed like a good option given my interest in human rights, the environment and justice more generally.

At McGill, I interned for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia after my second year, and loved it. It was one of the best things I've ever done in life in general and am so very grateful for the experience. It confirmed two things: my interest in international human rights law / international criminal law (and criminal law more generally) as well as my interest in working (and perhaps settling) abroad. I also clerked for a trial judge in criminal law and worked for a criminal defense firm in my last year and loved both experiences. This also gave me the direction I was seeking. Because of the connection between criminal law and (domestic!) human rights, I decided to start my career as a criminal lawyer and then to orient myself internationally in a few years’ time. (This plan may or may not change though - I like to take it one year at a time!)

I just finished my degree and right now, I'm not yet a lawyer. Bar call for me should be 2017 (barring any uncertainties). I'm going to article for the Superior Court (trial) in Ottawa, because I love clerking for judges, and I love criminal law. I'm not sure what will happen after that, but compared to how I felt after the end of my BA, I have a better sense of the direction I want to take with my career and I'm grateful for that!

Don't worry about not knowing what to do with your DEVS degree. It takes time to figure out and you'll probably change your mind a few times over the years - and that's ok, you'll still find and do meaningful work in the future. Focus on taking it one step at a time, one day at a time. Don't be afraid to make mistakes or to do plan B instead of plan A if plan A doesn't work out.

I'd definitely recommend taking a year or two off to get your feet wet, doing whatever feels right to you - abroad or in Canada. It's also a chance to do something you'd always wanted to do (related to DEVS or not) and may not have a chance to later on (working for a year in hostels around Europe or Latin America is something I always wanted to do, but never did!). It could also be a chance to learn more about an aspect of development you're curious about and in which you want to get experience before jumping into a bigger commitment like a Masters or another degree.

Riana Topan, BA (Hons), 2012

Riana Topan

I applied to the general Arts program at Queen’s, unsure of what I wanted to focus on but knowing that I had a keen interest in social justice I signed up for the first-year DEVS course and quickly realized that it was what I wanted to major in. I definitely think I made the right decision, especially because of how interdisciplinary the program is. I loved being able to take history, politics and gender studies classes to fulfil the requirements of the program. I especially enjoyed some of the seminars I took, they were a great place for discussion and debate.

Outside of class my experience in DEVS included an internship at Kingston Interval House, which I completed as a DEVS placement and earned credit for. It’s definitely been one of my most valuable volunteer experiences – both because of what I learned during my placement, and because of what it has added to my CV. I also served on the DEVS department student council for a year as Treasurer and thoroughly enjoyed that, and in my third year I helped to plan QIDC. That was a challenging, time-consuming and rather stressful experience but I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. I learned a ton about event planning, got really useful project management experience and made new friends. I was involved in several other clubs/extra-curriculars too (for example, I led the Queen’s chapter of STAND, a youth-based anti-genocide organization, in my second year, and helped out with the school’s first production of Down There, a collection of original stories loosely modelled on the Vagina Monologues, in my fourth year) and would highly recommend that other students try to do the same. There’s a limit to what you can learn in the classroom and the hands-on experience and relationships you gain can really help to round out your undergrad experience.

After graduating from Queen’s in the spring of 2012, I spent one final summer in Kingston working at the job I’d held throughout my fourth year, and then relocated to Ottawa in September to start looking for work (I’m originally from the GTA so Ottawa was new for me). I started off by volunteering to get to know the city and build up a bit of a network here, and spent a lot of time applying to jobs. In November I was hired at a not-for-profit professional association to do communications work. Although I didn’t have a background in communications, they hired me because I could write well and because I had demonstrated my ability to successfully balance multiple priorities simultaneously (school, work and volunteer activities).

I’ve been at that same job for more than three years now and have really enjoyed the experience so far – I’ve learned a lot about communications and am exploring ways in which I can use my current skill set to get more involved in some of the social justice issues I’m most passionate about. I’m still deciding what I want to do long-term but I think I’ve started my career off with a valuable position that will hopefully open up a variety of doors for me. Sometimes I don’t really feel like I’m using my DEVS degree as much as I could be, but I know that it’s shaped my career by making me aware of some of the biggest issues we face on a global level, and by helping me to identify some of the areas I’m most interested in.

Outside of work I am continuously on the lookout for new opportunities for personal or professional development. I invest time in my hobbies and interests and always make sure I have at least one “project” on the go, whether it’s a volunteer position or an online course or a part-time side business. Having these activities outside of my full time job is helping me to continue meeting new people and learning new skills, as well as decide what I might want to do next in my career.

The one piece of wisdom I’d like to impart to current students is to try to get the most well rounded experience out of your degree as possible. Obviously it’s important to get good grades, but your university experience can – and should – be so much more than that. I really encourage students to take on volunteer positions, seek out new experiences, meet as many new people as possible and, if you can manage it, get a part-time job outside of campus. Paid or volunteer positions can give you marketable experience, help you expand your network and build up your CV, put you in touch with other students with similar interests and, in the case of part-time work off campus, give you a break from your academic life and provide a steady flow of cash.

I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t finish all of my readings every week because I had so many other things going on, but in my eyes it was a worthwhile trade-off: I graduated feeling like I had made the most of my time at Queen’s. The paid and volunteer experience I gained has been invaluable to my career up to this point, and my closest friends today are the ones I made during my undergrad. If you can finish your program with decent grades, a few transferable skills and a network of personal and professional “contacts”, I think you’ll find the transition to the working world much easier!

Selena Zhang, BA (Hons), 2011, MPP

Zhelena Zhang

After majoring from Global Development Studies (DEVS) at Queen's University, Selena Zhang went on to do her Master’s in Public Policy (MPP) from the University of Toronto, graduating this year with the highest cumulative GPA in the program. Soon after completing her MPP, she landed a job at a think-tank in the Munk School of Global Affairs, called the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance (http://munkschool.utoronto.ca/imfg/), working with Enid, Slack, one of the world’s leading expert in municipal finance.  This is what Selena has to say about her new job:

As the IMFG's new Manager of Programs and Research, I'm immersed in every part of the Institute's daily operations - research and publications, visiting scholars, finances, events, seminars, graduate student scholarships, communications, strategic planning, etc. I'm learning a lot about how to run your own research and policy shop. The other day, for example, I was knee-deep in media and op-ed pitches (one of our events was featured in the Toronto Star). Public finance has never been my strong suit, but I'm lucky to be in a position where I get to engage with academic discourse everyday. Our research now is mainly focused on urban fiscal health, but we have work coming out around themes of climate change, governance, big data, and more.


DEVS MA Program Alumni

Melissa MacFarlane, MA 2010

Melissa MacFarlane

I am currently living and working full-time as a Senior Program Advisor with the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada  (IRCC) in Ottawa. I've been with the Department for over 3 years and am really enjoying it. The work we do has a direct global impact which is both exciting and stimulating. During my time with IRCC, I have contributed to a few different lines of business, but am currently working on Strategic Initiatives, particularly the new Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) program. I've been an key operational Advisor in the implementation of eTA, a new entry requirement for visa-exempt foreign nationals travelling to Canada by air, allowing Canada to screen travellers before they arrive in the country. This is a very important initiative and one which helps to enhance the safety and security of Canadians. Prior to this position, I worked as an Advisor on the Temporary Resident Biometrics Program. In this role, I provided functional guidance to our colleagues in the field on biometrics related issues; analyzed trends in biometric data and prepared in-depth reports; wrote briefing notes to the Minister's office, and ultimately worked to improve program efficiencies. I worked closely with other government departments, as well as with the RCMP and the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA). As a whole, during my time with IRCC, I have found, and continue to find, that there are lots of opportunities once you get your foot in the door, as I've been able to move around and explore different positions in a very short time span. Additionally, the government has a temporary assignment program whereby employees can go work in Canadian Visa Offices around the world for 6 week stints. I have taken the preliminary courses and am hoping that I will be able to work abroad in the near future. In all, the global perspective and research and analytical skills I gained during both my undergraduate and Master's degrees in DEVS have really contributed to my ability to succeed and grow professionally at CIC. 

Beth Timmers, MA 2010

Beth Timers

I am currently completing a PhD in Environment and Resource Studies at the University of Waterloo. My research focuses on food and agricultural sustainability in the Global South. My MA in DEVS opened up a ton of professional opportunities and is a great complement to my undergraduate degree in Economics. I was chosen for an International Youth Internship through Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD)right after graduation, then went on to work for the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research and the International Development Research Centre. DEVS taught me to think critically while doing research in developing countries, a skill I use every day in my research. Overall, DEVS enabled me to choose meaningful career path that I love! Despite graduating almost five years ago, I still feel supported by the DEVS faculty.

Adam Houston, MA 2012

Adam Houston

Adam’s academic and professional interests lie at the intersection of health, human rights and globalization. He has lived and worked in Southern Africa, the South Pacific and all over Canada, with organizations such as Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), the Pacific Islands AIDS Foundation (PIAF), and Avocats sans frontières Canada (ASFC). He holds a JD from the University of Victoria, an MA in Global Development Studies from Queen’s University, and won the Outstanding Student Award in his LL.M (Health Law) from the University of Washington. He is currently pursuing his PhD in Law at the University of Ottawa, focusing on legal/policy responses to a range of communicable and non-communicable diseases, while also continuing his involvement with the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti(IJDH) in their litigation against the United Nations over the Haitian cholera epidemic. He credits DEVS with giving him an extra edge in working in global law and policy.

Julia Hartviksen, MA 2014

Julia Hartviksen

Julia is in her second year of a PhD program at the London School of Economics (LSE). Her doctoral project explores the materiality of femicide and other forms of violence against women in Guatemala’s Northern Transversal Strip. Her research interests include critical feminist political economy, feminist international relations, violences against women, feminist historical materialism, extractivism, and masculinities. Her DEVS MA thesis explored femicide in the post-1996 Peace Accord period in Guatemala.