School of Graduate Studies

School of Graduate Studies
School of Graduate Studies

Michelle Amri

Master of Public Administration

Michelle Amri

Michelle Amri in the Philippines.
Photo courtesy of Mandi Cliff

Public Policy Takes Queen's MPA Student Around The World

by Sharday Mosurinjohn
​November 2014

Michelle Amri is graduating this month from Queen’s intensive Master of Public Administration program. Compared to students in many other schools’ MPA programs, Queen’s students complete about twice as many courses over less time – slightly less than one year, to be exact. Are you wondering what, precisely, it means to do public administration? Well, Amri’s work has taken her through energy policy, children’s health, tobacco reduction, and promoting health at the level of communities, in Ontario and abroad.

Amri recently returned from a six-week visit to the Philippines for an internship with the World Health Organization in the Division of Building Healthy Communities and Populations. Amri had been talking about the idea of internationalizing with a colleague from her alma mater, Western University, who asked her if she would consider work abroad. She considered the idea and applied online. Before she knew it, she was working in Manila under the guidance of WHO internship supervisor Kelvin Khow at the Western Pacific Regional Office.  One of the projects she was tasked with was to develop a resource to help Filipino mayors implement smoke-free policies in their towns.

“One mayor had already made a city of just under 100,000 people smoke-free in many respects, in compliance with the WHO- FCTC Article 8 Guidelines,” remembers Amri. “It was quite remarkable.”

Part of the value of the internship experience for Amri was learning about public policy in a different national context and seeing how some tactics could work beautifully in the Philippines, but might not fly in Canada. For instance, she recalls, one city’s strategy was to “hire older females to shame smokers.” Imagine your grandmother wagging her finger at an entire town.

Doing public policy was certainly colourful in the Philippines. If you envisioned somber bureaucracy, picture this instead: at the Second Smoke-Free Cities ASEAN Regional Workshop, Amri says she was invited to what was billed as a “quiet reception,” which turned out to be karaoke, live music, and a bunch of mayors dancing salsa and swing.

The WHO opportunity will open up the chance for Amri to apply to UN agencies for future work. In fact, she has agreed to take on a project from home, working with an Australian researcher to evaluate the implementation of the Regional Framework for Scaling Up and Expanding Healthy Cities in the Western Pacific 2011-2015. Currently, however, she is involved in the Ontario Internship Program in her hometown of London, Ontario, working for the Provincial government.

Amri is in the unit of Business Advisory Services in the Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure. Advisors from her unit meet with different businesses across Southwestern Ontario to educate them about government programs that provide funding, finance, marketing, and operations support. Amri helps with marketing the government service itself by developing promotional resources, studying the distribution of advisors in the territory to make recommendations for improvements, and streamlining processes for the advisors.

She has also been working with a Queen’s MPA alumnus in London, canvassing energy issues related to the environment and public health. At Nordex Market Research and Public Opinion Polling, Amri has lead analyst and research responsibilities on fracking (hydraulic fracturing) issues across North America and globally. Formerly, she did public opinion polling research there. Nordex founder and president Dr. Kimble F. Ainslie “loves hiring Queen’s MPA grads,” says Amri, because in addition to being loyal to the program, he knows that it is “the oldest” and one of the best in Canada.

And clearly Amri has made the most of it. The MPA is traditionally a coursework Masters, but she nonetheless elected to complete a Major Research Project with supervisor Don Drummond.

Reviewing policies, analyzing statistics, and collecting the insights of tobacco public health and policy workers using a questionnaire, Amri aimed to find out which policies were the most beneficial in reducing tobacco consumption rates in Canada. Taxation is one policy tool – a deterrent, and not, as some may imagine, a revenue source. “Revenue from tobacco taxes are offset, or often exceeded by, healthcare expenditures,” explains Amri. Moral persuasion is another tool. And there’s also regulation, which another Queen’s MPH student recently studied by looking at the “Who is 25?” program in Kingston.

In the end, Amri and Don Drummond concluded that a robust approach is the best policy.

During Amri’s time at Queen’s she has also been an editor for Queen’s Policy Review graduate journal, organized a conference with the journal team, and competed at the annual Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC) case competition. The latter opportunity materialized thanks to the encouragement of Dr. Rachel Laforest, who coached the Queen’s team.

Citing this story and many others, Amri voices delight at the “level of dedication by Queen’s professors, in terms of wanting students to network.” The School of Policy Studies hosts alumni events in Ottawa, Toronto, and even Washington DC, and it also holds a weekly speakers series that often draws in high-ranking government officials and subject area experts on critical topics like bilingualism in Canada and First Nations issues.

“There’s a real passion from the faculty here,” Amri says, happy to be graduating, but not to be moving on from such a vibrant intellectual community.

Michelle Amri with her firends at the QPR conference and Case Competition


Far Left - QPR Conference team: (top row, left to right) Musfiq Islam, Steve Hung, Michael Scott, Sharath Voleti, Christian Timperley, Gurwinder Dhillon, Grigor Grigorian (bottom row, left to right) Jenny Cheng, Michelle Amri, Julia Jankowski, Maral Kiani, Laura Moore, Marie-Claude Gaudreault


Left - Case Competition team: (left to right) Matthew Stanton, Julia Stroud, Grigor Grigorian, Michelle Amri​