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MPA student experiences 'the best of both worlds'

Posted by Philip Moscovitch on May 16, 2024 in News

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Hannah Baillie spent a work placement at Nova Scotia Health. The experience would change the direction of her career and lead her to Dalhousie’s Master of Public Administration program (MPA). She graduates in May 2024.

On her work term, Baillie was tasked with writing profiles of people in health care and promoting vaccination clinics as they rolled out. While on site at the Halifax Forum clinic, Baillie started thinking about the policy decisions behind the vaccination push. “I knew I liked working in the public sector, and I was really motivated by the work that my supervisors were engaged in,” she says. “I love writing, but I was also very interested in decision-making processes and ultimately that’s what I wanted to be involved in.

Policy at the dinner table

A Rhodes scholarship finalist and avid cross-country runner, Baillie, 24, is no stranger to public policy conversations. She grew up in a political family. Her father, Jamie Baillie, was leader of Nova Scotia’s Progressive Conservative Party from 2010 to 2018. She says even in her early childhood “we talked about policy at the dinner table. We still do. It’s a very common topic of conversation.”

She notes that in a small province like Nova Scotia, people in public policy see the effects of their work first-hand: “Six degrees of separation is really like two degrees. The impacts are much more tangible.”

‘The best of both worlds’

You could call Baillie a booster for her home province. She unabashedly loves Nova Scotia, chose Dalhousie in part because she wanted to study at home, and boasts that she was Apple Music’s top Stan Rogers listener last year. That said, she also appreciated the opportunity the MPA gave her to study abroad. She spent the fall 2023 semester with fellow MPA student Jessica Cogswell at Sciences Po Lille, the famed institute of political studies in northern France.

She calls the opportunity “the best of both worlds,” in that she could study at Dalhousie while experiencing international education in a very different political culture (and brushing up on her French). “You can’t do that in every master’s program,” she says.

Leading her student association

Baillie and Cogswell also served as co-presidents of the MPA students’ association, and Baillie’s English Bulldog, Harry, served “as the unofficial mascot for the Dal MPA program.” A St. John Ambulance certified therapy dog, Harry makes regular visits to the Abbie J. Lane psychiatric hospital in Halifax — and to Dalhousie.

“Anytime we had an AGM or in-person meeting, Harry would come with me and he would just sleep in the back and generally snore. He was always around. I would dress him up in ridiculous costumes, and I think people just enjoyed seeing a dog on campus.”

A future in public service

In her final semester, Baillie did an internship at the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), and the organization then hired her full-time. Her start date was in mid-May. She is working with the ACOA Policy and Coordination team,on long-term forecasting and research-oriented projects — particularly in the areas of housing and artificial intelligence.

Asked if she might follow family tradition and eventually get into politics herself, Baillie says, “Never say never,” but adds, “It's pretty thankless. You have to have a very thick skin. Working behind the scenes is probably better for me.”

Hannah (R) with her fellow MPA student Jessica Cogswell (L) on their exchange in France