Few people are fortunate enough to discover their life’s purpose at a young age. But Camilla Shuang Liu is one of them. At just 13 years old, she knew she wanted to work in policy communications someday—and she hasn’t looked back since.
After graduating from Carleton University with a B.A. in Communications and Political Science, Camilla assumed various communications roles in different federal government departments, including the Department of Employment and Social Development and the Department of Immigration and Refugees.
At the time she was accepted into the Max Bell School MPP program on a scholarship, Camilla was working as a senior communications advisor for Employment and Social Development Canada—a role that involves communicating government policy to the general public and media, and one she plans to return to once she graduates.
But after working in the field of communications for more than seven years, and in government roles for close to six, Camilla realized she’d like to learn more about the different aspects of policy and policymaking with the goal of becoming a better communicator and broadening her career horizons.
Mission: policy leader
“As a communications advisor, I come in at the end stage of policymaking, but I really wanted to learn about the different aspects—how agenda is set, how policy is made, how financing works,” she explains. “I felt this degree would give me a competitive edge and also open up opportunities for me as a policy leader.”
She chose the Max Bell MPP over other programs, she says, because of the mix of academic and professional practitioners. “I really wanted to learn not just about the theory but also make connections with people who were already successful in their fields and learn from them, build that network.”
Now more than halfway into the program, Camilla says she’s already learned so much and feels significantly better equipped to communicate complex policy issues more effectively.
“The program is really giving me the tools to distill complex policy down into a language Canadians will understand,” she explains. “There’s a very steep learning curve, it really requires self-discipline and intense studying. But I’m learning totally new things and gaining experience I didn’t think I’d be gaining.”
Pursuing a deeper purpose
In addition to strengthening her communications skillset, Camilla was motivated to learn more about policy to help tackle the issues closest to her heart. Her number one goal: “Poverty reduction with a focus on senior issues, which stems from a close emotional connection with my grandmother.”
Just before joining the MPP and deeply concerned about the impact of COVID on vulnerable seniors, Camilla spent time volunteering with the Regional Center for the Welfare of Ageing Persons in Cameroon, a charity she found through the U.N. Volunteers website that’s dedicated to helping seniors cope with the pandemic. It was a rewarding experience that, she says, “gave me a more global perspective before joining the program.”
Another issue Camilla has always been passionate about is homelessness, and in her role at Employment and Social Development Canada, she’s responsible for the department’s homelessness files. When COVID hit in early 2020, she was tasked with communicating Canada’s strategy for helping people experiencing homelessness during the pandemic.
“I really like my role working on homelessness files, on poverty reduction, and social innovation,” she says. “I feel like I was doing meaningful work communicating government initiatives to a broad Canadian audience, and poverty alleviation is something I really want to focus on.”
Looking forward to the future
While she feels fulfilled in her current role, Camilla says the MPP has opened her eyes to new career opportunities and options.
For her capstone project, she and her MPP teammates are working closely with Engineers Without Borders, exploring ways to enable Canadian investors to invest in Kenyan start-ups and help African business. And the project has sparked a growing interest in international development for Camilla.
“The international development side of the project really interests me. Right now, my job is very much related to poverty reduction in Canada, but I’m also really interested in helping people in extreme poverty in developing countries.”
Looking ahead, one option for Camilla is to pursue a role in international development. “I’d possibly like to work for an international institution like the World Bank, the U.N., Global Affairs Canada, or Canadian embassies, to foster diplomatic relations with other countries.”
The other is to continue working with the Canadian government to communicate issues she’s passionate about here at home. But whichever path she chooses, Camilla feels confident that the MPP program and the skills she’s learning every day will prove to be an invaluable asset.
“Now that I’ve been intensively trained on writing briefing notes, understanding policy and the different disciplines within it like statistics and economics, how to do policy research and analysis, it’s so valuable to my resume,” she says. “All of these tools give me a real advantage to go one level deeper in my career.”