Kayli Avveduti is Nēhiyaw from the Treaty 6 Territory, born and raised in the Alexander First Nation in Alberta, where she continues to live today. She shares a strong connection to her family and community—a connection that led her to study public policy with the goal of helping drive positive change for Indigenous People.
“I think that I came to the MPP program with a very different perspective,” Kayli explains. “As a First Nations person, my entire life has been dictated by policy. The Indian Act and its effects have trickled down through all generations in my family, so I’ve always been interested in policy and how to make a change.”
“For me, public policy is a real opportunity to make an impact that will have positive effects on lots of people. And this program has given me the tools and language to engage in those types of conversations.”
Forging a promising future at the Max Bell School
Kayli was studying Political Science at MacEwan University in Alberta when her professors suggested she pursue a master’s in public policy. After researching the best schools in the country, she landed on the Max Bell School MPP—firstly because of the prestige of McGill and the appeal of living in Montreal, and second because the School was calling for people with work and life experience.
Before her undergrad, Kayli worked and volunteered in various positions within her community and also interned in the office of the Minister of Indigenous Services Canada. She brought valuable work experience to the table and was looking to engage with fellow students who would bring the same.
“As an older student in my undergrad, it was a bit difficult to connect with individuals who were still learning and growing. I appreciate that journey for them but I was a little further on the path. So it appealed to me that the program was asking for students who had experience working.”
“I was really excited to get to engage with and learn from other students as much as the professors,” she adds. “We had people from all over the world and it was so cool to be exposed to all of those different backgrounds and experiences.”
The challenges and rewards of teamwork
Working closely with people from such diverse backgrounds and perspectives was one of the most rewarding parts of the MPP experience for Kayli—and also the most challenging.
“You’re put together with people from very different backgrounds and asked to come up with ideas and answers to very difficult policy questions, which makes for challenging but important conversations,” she remembers. “But teamwork was also my favourite aspect of the program because policy doesn’t happen alone. You have to know how to work with other people, and the program really gave me the skills to be able to do that in the future.”
Kayli was part of the MPP’s inaugural cohort, along with 35 other students from around the globe. Every six weeks, the class was divided into smaller groups of five to seven students to work on different assignments. The groups then rotated with each module, giving students the chance to get to know and collaborate with every class member.
“The program was very intense—you’re doing a master’s in 11 months! But the approach they take with group work really helps to balance the intensity so you never feel like you’re struggling alone.”
Learning from the best
Another aspect of the program Kayli really appreciated was the calibre of the MPP professors and instructors, and the unique opportunity to learn from and build connections with such influential policy figures.
“Learning from Professor Chantal Hebert is an experience that definitely stood out for me, to get just a glimpse of her brain and what she does, and what she’s done so well for so long,” Kayli notes. “Also Pearl Eliadis, who taught our Ethics and Law course. She’s amazing, she really challenged all of our thinking and encouraged us to take a human rights-based approach to policy.”
Applying new skills in the real world
Kayli has carried this human rights-based approach into her current role as Regional Coordinator for the Martin Family Initiative (MFI), where she’s been working full time since graduating from the program in 2020. The initiative, founded by the former Prime Minister of Canada Paul Martin and his family, is based in Montreal but has programs across the country dedicated to supporting Indigenous communities.
Despite the intensity of the MPP program, Kayli also managed to work part-time with MFI during her studies, highlighting her commitment to Indigenous causes. Today, she’s working on a program called The Early Years, a pre-natal to pre-school program that supports young families.
She says the MPP’s focus on teamwork and the diversity of the student cohort really helped prepare her for her current role, which involves working closely with different Indigenous communities and adapting the program to each community’s unique culture and needs.
Any advice for future or potential MPP students?
“First, have confidence and believe in yourself,” Kayli says. “If future students are anything like me, they’ll read their new classmates’ bios and get very intimidated by their success. But remember you’re there for a reason and be confident in what you bring to the table.”
Her second piece of advice: “Ask a lot of questions. You have an opportunity to learn and engage with very smart people, from professors to students, so make the most of it.”