Excerpt from "Interviews with Alumni from the 1990s and 200s by Tim Smith", 2011 Department Newsletter.
Bridget O’Grady is currently an Internal Auditor in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. Bridget graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Honours in History in 2003, winning the departmental medal. She pursued a Master of Public Administration at the Queen’s School of Policy Studies, and soon after graduation, became an Auditor and Audit Project Leader with the Office of the Auditor General of Canada (OAG) in Ottawa, where she worked from 2004 to early 2011. Bridget recalls, “I was responsible for conducting performance (or ‘value-for-money’) audits of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canada Border Services Agency, the Correctional Service of Canada, and a variety of other departments and agencies. Over the course of my six and a half years at the OAG, I travelled the entire country, gathering evidence (just as I did while completing my history degree, in fact!); toured everything from the Kingston Penitentiary to container ships in Halifax; interviewed senior management across the Government of Canada, stakeholder organizations, and international bodies; and contributed to the drafting of audit reports (some of the longest ‘history’ papers I’ve ever written!). I even had the privilege of representing the OAG at the Australian National Audit Office in Canberra, Australia, in 2009.”
“How did your History degree help you in this role?” “My colleagues and supervisors at the OAG (many of whom attended Queen’s themselves) valued my history education, and appreciated the unique perspective I brought to the team. Now, as an Internal Auditor with the Government of Yukon in Whitehorse, I put those same skills to use. To this day, I believe it was my History degree that laid the foundation for my interest—and ultimately my success—in tackling the ‘big questions’ in public sector management.” We asked Bridget about her memories of Queen’s: “I took a wide range of History courses with a number of professors who continue to have a profound impact on my life to this day. Over the course of my studies, I developed a thirst for knowledge and a desire to become a truly engaged citizen. I made friends and established networks that have enriched my life more than I ever could have imagined."
“How did your History degree prepare you for your graduate studies and your career? Bridget answered: “I think my history degree helped prepare me for my Master of Public Administration, and ultimately my career in the public service, by providing me with critical thinking skills—and so much more. Because the liberal arts and humanities emphasize intellectual curiosity and exploration, I was encouraged to embrace ideas--and not to prematurely discount any career paths. Instead of fixating on what courses I ‘needed to take’ to become a member of particular profession, I focused on studying what I loved, and built self-confidence and critical competencies— including the ability to manage projects, work with others, and deliver presentations. My experience writing major research papers, delivering group projects, and leading seminar discussions surely helped. I was also fortunate to be able to conduct some research for Professor Emeritus Gerald Tulchinsky, who supported the growth of my research skills".
We asked Bridget if there was a particular reason she chose Queen's. “I chose Queen’s because of its reputation and sense of community spirit. With some family in the Kingston area, I made the move from Comox, British Columbia. I owe a great deal to the Chernoff family, as well, whose 'Chernoff Family Award' opened so many doors. The gift enabled me to pursue my true academic passions, learn abou myself, and decide on the path that was right for me.”
“Do you have any advice for students considering a career in the public service,” we asked? “Take the courses that interest you. Engage the material. Ask questions. Get to know your professors, and let them help you find your path: I know from experience that they are more than happy to provide mentorship, guidance, and assistance. Familiarize yourself with the enormous number of resources on campus, particularly the Career Centre. Between co-op options, on-campus jobs and research assistantships, it’s entirely possible to build a C.V. that impresses prospective employers as early as your first year of study. I would also recommend enrolling in courses in statistics, research methods, economics, and French, should the opportunity arise. I did, and they have been critical to my career advancement. Above all, stay positive, and know that the ability to communicate and reason—the hallmarks of a history degree—will get you places you may never even have dreamed possible!”