Soma Barsen: Capstone Lands National Award

October 25, 2021

For the second year in a row, an MPP graduate has taken top honours in the National Student and Thought Leadership Awards in Public Administration – a joint initiative of the Canadian Association of Programs in Public Administration (CAPPA) and the Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC). 

We congratulate Soma Barsen as this year’s winner based on her Capstone, Vancouver’s Dirty Laundry: Policy considerations and interventions to address synthetic (plastic) microfibre ocean pollution in a large urban centre.

Held in conjunction with IPAC’s virtual conference on August 23-24, this year’s competition involved five Masters students from schools across Canada. The award recognizes top talent in Canadian public administration and policy programs at regional and national levels. It highlights excellence in public administration and showcases the talent emerging from Canadian programs each year.  

Soma had this to say about the recent competition:  

This was a very challenging competition. All of the competing students presented projects that were very important and challenging to tackle. For example, one looked at the underrepresentation/severe shortage of Indigenous nurses in Manitoba where a large segment of the Indigenous community is underserved, and another presentation was about accountability and governance structures in land-ambulance service in Ontario. Each of the students, some of whom had extensive professional experience in their policy area, were clearly very motivated by and dedicated to their topics. It was very humbling to have the opportunity to present my work alongside theirs.

The judges were long-time public servants and policy experts. They provided critical insights from their own experience and brought a much-valued critical perspective to discuss all our topics. They posed challenging questions and nudged us to think critically about our policy recommendations and their practicability in real-life contexts. It was a great opportunity to have informed academics to help us reflect on our work.

I’d like to add that this experience was one of those where I realized that the training we receive at the School of Public Policy not only gives us the knowledge and skillset to tackle pressing policy problems, but it also gives us an edge by providing critical training for translating and delivering knowledge about highly complex issues in an accessible way. This was probably the toughest presentation I’ve had to prepare for in a long time.


About Soma:

Soma completed her BSc at the University of British Columbia and is a 2021 graduate from SFU’s School of Public Policy.  Her background and policy interests are at the intersection of science and policy, how we organize our societies, economies, and governance locally and globally to protect ecosystems and support communities. Soma has presented her study findings and recommendations to the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, among others. Her ongoing research explores ocean pollution and labour practices emanating from the textile industry.

She is currently expanding her capstone project to a pan-Canadian study and is also working on several journal articles for publication. The pan-Canadian study is being conducted in partnership with Smart Prosperity Institute and other important stakeholders.