Alumnus Profile: Benjamin Hendriksen, Public Policy
Like many university students, Benjamin Hendriksen asked himself post-graduation, “What am I going to do now?” After graduating with a degree in Political Science from Brock University in Ontario, Benjamin decided to take a year off to figure out his next move. During that time he worked as a supervisor at The Beer Store in Ontario while researching graduate school programs that would allow him to pursue his academic interests in politics and government. Propelled by a growing desire to get out of the “Southern Ontario bubble,” Hendriksen applied to, and was accepted to SFU’s Masters in Public Policy (MPP) Program. He began the program in 2009 and graduated in 2011.
Hendriksen’s experience illustrates the continued relevance and importance of an arts and social sciences education. Just one month after graduating, he found a job in Yellowknife, working as a Policy Analyst for the Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission (WSCC) of the North West Territories and Nunavut. The WSCC promotes workplace safety and care for injured workers in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, and is responsible for administering the Workers' Compensation Acts, the Safety Acts and Regulations, the Mine Health and Safety Acts, and the Explosives Use Acts to protect workers.
Just two years later, Hendriksen applied for another position within the Commission, and he worked as the Codes of Practice Advisor until just last month, when he was promoted to Manager of Policy and Corporate Reporting. In this role, Benjamin is responsible for leading consultations and outside engagement with the public, offering strategic advice, and providing background information and statistics on workers’ claims to other analysts and decision-makers.
When asked how the MPP Program prepared him for a career in public policy, Hendriksen explains, “I wouldn’t be doing the work that I’m doing now if it wasn’t for that program.” Indeed, he describes faculty members as “passionate, dedicated, and supportive.” Current MPP faculty include former members of government and top-rated professionals working in other fields students are seeking to enter. His thesis supervisor, Kennedy Stewart, is now the NDP Member of Parliament for Burnaby-Douglas.
The MPP Program provides students with a unique educational experience, consisting of course work and a summer Co-op term, and culminating in a capstone research project that “addresses a public policy problem and analysis of potential solutions.” Hendriksen emphasizes the benefits of the MPP program’s co-operative learning component, explaining that it gave him the opportunity to hone his skills in a professional setting. Interning with Mark Robbins at the BC Ministry of Agriculture, Hendriksen’s capstone project focused on analysing whether there was a need for temporary farmworker housing in Abbotsford area.
It is evident from Hendriksen’s experience that the MPP program gives students the chance to, in his words, “rub shoulders” with professionals that most students can’t typically access. Indeed, there are many benefits to co-operative learning, and it often gives students like Hendriksen an edge in the competitive job market because they have “practical experience”, even if they have little or no previous professional experience.
However, graduate school wasn’t all work. One highlight for Hendriksen was experiencing the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, and he also forged many personal relationships at SFU. He explains that his MPP cohort have remained a “tight knit group” who support one another professionally, “bouncing ideas off of each other” on a regular basis. The importance of building professional networks is further reflected in his current position, as he notes that maintaining good working relations with everyone in the community is integral because even “if you don’t know somebody there’s a chance that somebody else does.”
So what does the future hold for Hendriksen? He admitted that he “probably won’t be in the North West Territories forever” and that he is going to take the future “as it comes.” No doubt, whatever he chooses to do, Benjamin Hendriksen will do it with the passion, curiosity and sense of adventure that seems to have defined his approach to life thus far. For now, he is enjoying life up North with his girlfriend, and doing a job that he cares about a great deal.