Our MPP students: Ricardo Chejfec

We sat down with Ricardo Chejfec, a recent graduate of our MPP program, to find out about his path to the Max Bell School and his upcoming work with the Institute for Research on Public Policy.

It was a long and twisting road to reach the world of public policy, but in hindsight the career choice feels inevitable for Ricardo Chejfec. Motivated equally by a sense of adventure and a sense of duty, Ricardo left his hometown at age 16. “Even back then I really was yearning to get out and explore the world,” he recalls.

Now a recent graduate of the Max Bell School’s Master of Public Policy program, Ricardo is about to explore the policy world even further. This year, he will become a Policy Scholar at the Montreal-based Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP). His work with the 49-year-old national think tank will see him participate in new research that will inform debate on current and emerging policy issues facing Canadians and their governments.

Early days

Ricardo grew up in the metropolis of Guadalajara, Mexico, where his parents’ social consciousness and dedicated community service rubbed off on him quickly. “My parents were Argentinean immigrants and they were always very involved in the community. From a very early age, they implanted a civic duty in me and my brother. Helping out in soup kitchens, working with disadvantaged children... They were always organizing something.”

Ricardo completed his final two years of high school in the US with his family thousands of kilometers away. The culture shock was eye-opening. “It was my first real exposure to academia, the idea that people dedicate their lives and careers to answering really difficult questions,” he says. It was his first inkling that his curiosity could fuel an entire career.

The pull of policy

After two years in North Carolina, Ricardo moved across the 49th parallel to pursue an undergraduate degree from McGill University. He saw moving to Canada as another opportunity to push himself and the boundaries of his world.

Four years later, he landed a business analyst position at Scotiabank, bachelor’s degree in cognitive science in hand. “It was a great field and degree for me because it allowed me to essentially pick and choose the things that I was most interested in,” he says. “I think it set me up well.”

The gravitational pull of public policy was still subtle at this point. “I knew that I loved research. I knew that I loved problem-solving. I knew that I loved studying behavior. And I knew I needed to see what the working world looks like. It was crucial experience, seeing how a large company works from the inside, the way they operate and handle people and allocate resources.”

During his time at Scotiabank, the pull became stronger. By the time that the opportunity to apply for the Max Bell School MPP program presented itself, it seemed like a no-brainer. Ricardo made the decision to return to his studies and try his hand in a completely different sector. “In public policy, I saw how powerful this combination of academic methods to solve real-world problems really was. Something clicked. I was like, ‘I want to do that. That’s where I want to put my energy.’” The passion in his voice is palpable.

Finding a niche

Mixing the rigour of policy with the heady work of academia was a powerful combination for Ricardo. “That's one of the things that is most appealing to me about policy and the Max Bell school. It exists in this middle ground where they rely heavily on academia, but they don’t get to ignore a bunch of things that they don't like in order to apply their findings. It's a world that actually needs people to go and do the work,” he says. The sense of civic duty instilled by his parents re-emerges. “All of that makes it feel like it's the right space for me. These are really difficult problems but they're also important problems, really important questions to be answered.”

Asked what he thinks draws people like him to the world of policy and the MPP program, Ricardo’s answer is simple. It’s a space for problem solvers who like really difficult and potentially unanswerable problems—across all segments of society. “If you look at what happened in at the beginning of the pandemic, all industries stalled last year. The one thing that everybody needed the most was policy,” he remarks.

New challenges, new opportunities

Now that he is on the other side of the MPP program, two degrees from McGill to his name, Ricardo is excited for the future. He sees two potential tracks for himself, but remains open-minded. “Civil service is one possibility, working for a government where I can have a hand in shaping those policy decisions. Another is working externally at a university or think tank, where the focus is accountability for those decisions and helping the general public better understand why those decisions are made.”

In the shorter term, Ricardo is looking forward to dipping a toe into the think tank world with the IRPP.

“It’s a fantastic first step in,” he beams. “There's still a lot I need to discover about this field about the world, about my role and my ability to contribute.” He is confident that his time at the IRPP can help on all fronts. “Since I left home, I’ve never stayed in one place for too long, but policy really seems like something that I'm going to enjoy doing for a long time.”

Jennifer Ditchburn, the IRPP’s President and CEO is looking forward to welcoming Ricardo to the team. “We are very pleased to be able to continue to work with the Max Bell school’s policy scholars. It’s an opportunity to help support some of Canada’s emerging policy thinkers, and also to benefit from their own research and insights,” said Ditchburn. “Ricardo’s training and interests will be an asset to our research programs focused on the future of the social safety net and on adult skills and learning.”

The diversity of the work, the complexity of the challenges, and the potential to give something back have led Ricardo to this precipice. What comes next is anyone’s guess. You never know where a sense of adventure might take you.

McGill arts building

Max Bell School of Public Policy's MPP Program

We prepare students for public policy careers in the government, private and non-profit sectors at the local, national and international levels. Discover our 11-month MPP program and how to apply.


There are currently no events available.


Back to top