There is a new, energetic presence on the Glendon campus these days: Diane Morissette (right), Glendon’s first Federal Public Servant-in-Residence has taken up her position on January 12th.
The Public Servant-in-Residence program has only been in existence for the past couple of years, coordinated by the Canada School of Public Service, whose mandate is to ensure that all Public Service employees have the knowledge and skills they need to deliver results for Canadians. The Glendon position is one of just 10 across the country so far.
“Much like the rest of Canada, the federal Public Service is comprised of an aging population”, says Morissette. “This is why there is such a need to attract a new generation of public servants – ones that are the best in their field, equipped with all the skills necessary for guiding the country towards its future.” The concept of the Public Servant-in-Residence program is to place experienced, high-level functionaries into Canadian universities for terms of varying length, in Morissette’s case 2 years. Her wide-ranging tasks include building relationships, sharing talent and ideas, promoting research relevant to Public Service priorities, providing first-hand information about careers in the Public Service, and facilitating recruitment to support the Public Service’s agenda of renewal - a key priority for the Clerk of the Privy Concil and the Public Service as a whole.
Having just completed 25 years of increasingly high-level positions within the Public Service of Canada, Morisette is ready to take up this challenge. When she was approached by her department to consider the position proposed by Glendon, she was eager to seize the opportunity. “My liberal arts background, my long-term interest in transferring knowledge, and my wish to give back to a new generation all seemed tailor-made for this position”, says Morissette. After meeting Glendon Principal Kenneth McRoberts in Ottawa, followed by an on-site visit to the campus last July, they were both convinced that it was the right fit.
Morissette is investing a great deal of energy into understanding Glendon’s historic and unique mandate, its fundamental values and key focuses. She identifies closely with these and admires the College’s steadfast commitment to its original objectives of providing a well-rounded bilingual liberal arts education as the best foundation for the future leaders of this country. “Transferable skills developed through studying the liberal arts equip graduates with the capacity to think independently, analyze large amounts of information with clarity and speed, organize their work and prioritize. Their ability to make informed decisions and lead others are key assets”, comments Morissette, quoting 16th - century French philosopher Michel de Montaigne, when she states that ‘des têtes bien faites’, i.e. logical minds will always be necessary in organizations such as the Public Service (the quote is from Montaigne’s celebrated statement in chapter 1 of his Essais, explaining the role of the teacher: « Une tête bien fait vaut mieux qu’une tête bien pleine », that is, a clear-thinking, creative mind is more important than a head filled with information).
She sees herself as a bridging agent, bringing her experience and expertise to Glendon’s students and faculty and, at the same time, providing feedback to the Public Service about what she observes and the types of skills they should be looking for in new recruits. While her position is designed to focus on Glendon’s new Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, she is open to being a resource for undergraduates as well. “I can foresee contributing through presentations, seminars and symposia on campus. When appropriate, I could also be a ‘Glendon representative’ at other institutions, promoting its mandate and mission”, says Morissette. Installed in her new office in Glendon Hall, she is also eager to provide mentoring to individual students, act as a resource to faculty and the administration, and generally function within an open-door policy.
Morissette’s longer-term plans include some research, most likely in her second year, building on her experience as Public Servant-in-Residence, supporting the projects and activities of the Public Service, providing views of what works and what doesn’t – being a two-way ambassador of sorts.
“I am delighted to discover Toronto and explore all that this great metropolis offers”, confides Morissette. “And here is my best chance to do so, while spreading my wings professionally, and taking advantage of new opportunities.” She sees building a local network of public servants as one of her tasks, enabling a free exchange of ideas and experiences that will enrich what she brings to Glendon as well as to the federal Public Service.
Morissette’s message to students and faculty at Glendon is that the Public Service is a place where well-trained, enthusiastic young professionals can find a future, a chance to be challenged, to grow and to contribute to citizens’ life. “The wide range of opportunities offered [there] can respond to graduates in almost every profession. The preparation that Glendon’s bilingual Graduate School of Public and International Affairs offers to its students is a particularly good fit for many important government positions, and my term as Public Servant-in-Residence enables me to bring that message to these students and to support them in their search for their future careers.”
More about Diane Morissette
Diane Morissette’s professional experience centres on strategic policies, including intergovernmental relations, labour market and service policies, and strategic planning at the departmental level. She has held senior advisory roles and executive positions, notably in the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada/Service Canada, the Privy Council Office, the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women, and in the Ministry of Transportation (Québec). She holds a Bachelor of Science (1976) and an M.Sc. (1980), both in anthropology from Université de Montréal. She has also done field work in anthropology in Canadian Aboriginal and Swiss alpine communities. In addition, she is a graduate of numerous courses and educational programs within the federal Public Service, including the Canada School of Public Service.
An article submitted by Glendon communications officer Marika Kemeny