When it came to her career path, Sandra Song, Ph.D., remembers arriving at a fork in the road early on in considering a profession in academia or the government sector.
“I began my career in the Canadian federal government, and I’ve never regretted the decision,” she said. “That one-year experiment became 10-plus years of experiences in shaping policy in different sectors of society, and with a strong sense of service to communities across Canada.”
But when the two pathways converged at another crossroad in 2019, the choice was simple: pursue both.
Dr. Song took the role of program director of the Adler University Joy MacPhail Master of Public Policy and Administration (MPPA) program on the Vancouver Campus, preparing graduates to address today’s complex policy issues.
After three years of continued program growth, she has been tasked with creating a similar program on the Chicago Campus, and classes are set to begin in Fall 2023. Dr. Song now serves as department chair of the Public Policy and Administration Programs, and with it, becomes the first faculty member to oversee a program on both Vancouver and Chicago campuses.
Dr. Song sees her new role as a reflection of the ongoing “One Adler” vision for the University and its campuses.
“A Canadian running an American program is interesting, but also enrichening,” Dr. Song said. “I’ve brought my skill sets to the table and I’m very excited to help MPPA students — in Vancouver and Chicago — gain the tools to advance a more just society.”
Despite the distance between both cities, Dr. Song said she doesn’t foresee challenges or hurdles along the way, instead she sees opportunity.
“The University is developing a blueprint for bringing our campuses together,” she said. “When that vision is clear, we can assemble the right team and come together to support each other. With the MPPA programs, I think we will see how well the one university approach is doing within a reasonable time frame.”
Dr. Song earned her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Alberta. In 2003, she took on the role of senior policy analyst with the Department of Canadian Heritage and later Health Canada, which is responsible for numerous federal health-related agencies.
Over the next decade, she also took on a variety of policy-related roles for Industry Canada, the National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools, and the Concordia University of Edmonton.
Prior to Adler, she served as senior government relations adviser for Covenant House Vancouver, a nonprofit dedicated to helping young people who are facing or at risk of homelessness or human trafficking.
When Dr. Song first chose a career in government instead of academia, she did so because she was drawn towards gaining real-world experience.
But by 2019, she was ready to immerse herself in academia.
“I feel incredibly fortunate that I took the chance and explored a career in the government sector,” said Dr. Song. “In returning to the academic sector, I am excited to bring my experiences into the training ground in helping students shape global policy and leverage their sense of public service.”
Dr. Song was also intrigued with the role’s ability to shape Adler’s program and work with community partners across Vancouver, something she is now focussed on for Chicago.
The highlight so far during her time at Adler was watching her first students walk across the stage during the Vancouver Campus’ commencement ceremony in October.
“It was a beautiful moment for me,” she said. “As they walked across the stage, I had these flashbacks of key moments of their time at Adler. I’m confident our graduates will make a positive impact in Vancouver and beyond.”
Dr. Song said she has the same hopes when a few years from now the first students of the Chicago Campus’ MPPA program graduate.
“All our students are going to burst with confidence in themselves knowing they can make an impact in their community and the world because of the great efforts of our faculty and the program we’re developing,” she said.