Julie Walchli, Legislative Intern 1991
“Participating in the Legislative Internship Program in 1991 was truly a transformational experience for me, and one that has had a lasting impact on my career path. As an English Honours grad with a minor in Political Science from UBC, and one of only 2 non-Poli Sci majors in my cohort, I wasn’t sure what I’d be able to contribute during my 6 weeks in the Policy Branch of the Ministry of Advanced Education, and 4 months assigned to Government Caucus. By the time I finished the 6-month program, I realized that the critical thinking and writing skills of my English degree, combined with my Political Science courses, had prepared me really well for the work I did in the Program. The realization about the value of my undergraduate degree was empowering.
Early on in my Ministry assignment I was fortunate to meet the Deputy Minister, Gary Mullins. He was really supportive of interns, and took me under his wing. I got to attend some amazing meetings with him, including one with Deputy Ministers of Advanced Education from across Canada that he hosted in Victoria. He encouraged me to read a book called The Competitive Advantage of Nations, by Michael E. Porter, which argues that innovation and upgrading are keys to successful national economies, and that innovation in education, particularly hands-on learning, is key in many successful economies. This insight stuck with me, even after I finished my Masters degree in Canadian literature at UBC and started teaching full-time as a contract faculty member in the UBC English Department.
In time I learned about Co-operative Education, which allows students to combine paid, full-time work terms with their academic program, so students graduate with experience and their degree. I was able to secure a grant to pilot a Co-op Program in English for 40 majors in 1997/98, and in 1999 was hired to start an Arts-wide co-op program that now includes over 1000 students from undergraduate, masters, and PhD programs. I’ve had the opportunity to serve in a variety of leadership roles nationally and internationally, publish in my field, and have an incredibly rewarding career as an educator at UBC. The kernel of my career started during the hands-on learning of the Legislative Internship Program.
The Internship Program wasn’t only a great professional experience, but also an amazing personal one. I became friends with 7 other remarkable young British Columbians, all of whom have gone on to interesting careers in a wide range of fields in Canada and abroad. One has become a life-long friend who I still see regularly.
For any BC post-secondary students interested in public policy, and/or the political process, the Legislative Internship program is definitely worth considering. And if you’re fortunate enough to be selected, I hope it’s as transformative an experience for you as it was for me!”