Spotlight on MPPGA Alumni Careers – Esther Ocheni

Esther Alumni Careers Spotlight

During our Spotlight on MPPGA Alumni Careers series, meet the UBC Master of Public Policy and Global Affairs (MPPGA) alumni who are committed to addressing pressing and complex public policy and global affairs challenges facing communities around the world.

Today, we are featuring Esther Ocheni (‘21) who works as a Senior Researcher and Policy Analyst at the First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC) based in West Vancouver, British Columbia.

SPPGA: Could you please tell us a little about yourself, your background, and how you became interested in public policy and global affairs?

I’m Esther Ocheni. I’m Nigerian born and raised and an immigrant to Canada (two years now). Nigeria is a lower-middle income country that is rich in natural resources and a remarkably entrepreneurial labor force. Its economy is unfortunately stagnated by corrupt and myopic public policies and international relations (among other things), hence my interest from a young age in the topic.

SPPGA: Were there experiences you had during the MPPGA program that directly or indirectly contributed to your career journey?

Two in particular: my Global Policy Project and my Research Assistantship positions. While my GP2 was interesting and timely with global issues, the experience of conducting deep targeted research into an unfamiliar topic/region, working with field experts and presenting/defending my findings (with my teammates) was extremely rewarding and self-reassuring.

Working as an RA also exposed me to other regions of the world including China and global Indigenous nations, as well as issues relevant to them. My RA position with Dr Sheryl Lightfoot researching the covid-responses of Indigenous nations across the globe was particularly helpful in landing my current job at FNESC.

SPPGA: What was your Co-op position and what were your key takeaways? Did this position change how you think about your skills and career path or interests?

My Co-op was through United Nations Association Canada as Junior Economic Policy Consultant with UNDP Cambodia. The position let me see how UNDP works, how it partners with other UN organizations in the same country, with other NGOs and the Cambodian government. I got to work on their pioneer credit guarantee program providing affordable loans to women-owned MSMEs.

My key takeaway is my understanding on how complex the web of actors and ideas involved in every bit of policy is—and how impressive it is to condense it all into a piece of legislation or executive order that actually works.

SPPGA: Please describe your current role. What makes you proud about this work?

I’m a Senior Researcher and Policy Analyst at the First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC); a policy and advocacy organization that represents and works on behalf of First Nations students and educators in British Columbia to advance quality education for all First Nations. Indigenous peoples across Canada have been victims of destructive education policies in Canada, dating back to residential schools. I am proud to be part of an organization that holds the province accountable and demands policies that not only attempt to undo the harm but provide First Nations with the tools for success as they define it.

SPPGA: What is your career advice for current MPPGA students and new graduates?

Be open-minded and curious. I’m happy where I’m at now but my GP2 project, Co-op and current job weren’t exactly where I thought I wanted going into them. These different opportunities have given me skills, knowledge and a network way bigger than what I intended to receive and I’m grateful for all of it. Also, mingle and participate in/at the events, organizations and extracurriculars!

Thank you for your time and insights!