Laura Sutherland – Alumni Success Story

July 13, 2021

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Laura Sutherland – Alumni Success Story

Laura Sutherland

Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Psychology (Double Major), Class of 2013

What have you been up to since you left Crandall University?

After graduating from Crandall I moved to Ottawa to pursue a Masters in Globalization and International Development, with a specialization in Women’s Studies at the University of Ottawa. My thesis research built on work I completed at Crandall as part of the Cross-Cultural Certificate program and focused on children’s access to and experience with India’s primary education system, particularly in areas with traditionally high rates of discrimination and marginalization.

Ironically, what was intended to be a two-year move to Ottawa to finish this program is now going on 7 years as I have since fallen in love with this city, including the community of friends and neighbours I have made here and all of the beautiful nature the Ottawa Valley has to offer. (My Instagram presence is now 95% shots of Ottawa’s various waterways at sunset, and for that I make no apologies).

While completing my graduate studies I worked with various non-profits before joining the federal public service in 2015. While the public sector was never on my “short” list of career aspirations, I quickly learned of the numerous opportunities to make a difference that exist at all levels of government, and have since been pursuing opportunities to support community health and development across the country.

From 2015-2019 I worked at Public Safety Canada on a variety of files, including Emergency Management, where I supported response efforts to national emergencies and natural disasters, including the 2016 Wildfires in Fort McMurray. During this time I also discovered the wonderful world of Program Evaluation and had the opportunity to review numerous crime prevention and community safety programs. This role also involved making recommendations to senior management to ensure that the programming offered continued to be the best use of funding and resulted in positive impacts for communities.

In June 2019 I accepted a Program Evaluation job at the Public Health Agency of Canada to conduct similar work on health-related programs. None of us knew at that time, though, how much our world would change less than a year later and how many of us from across the Agency would be asked to step out of our comfort zones and into new roles over the course of the year to support the COVID-19 pandemic response. Since the pandemic started I have had the opportunity to support various aspects of Canada’s response, including taking on roles I would never have imagined doing when I first joined the public service five years ago, such as providing contact tracing surge support to Provinces and Territories last summer, and conducting “lessons learned” reviews of Canada’s early response to the pandemic to support continuous improvement within the Agency.

Most recently, since October 2020, I have been serving as a Project Manager for Canada’s COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout. This means I am part of the team at the Agency working around the clock to manage the distribution of vaccines across Canada and support Provinces and Territories to administer the largest immunization campaign in Canadian history. I am honoured to be supporting this work and consider it my opportunity to give back and support our communities in the global fight against COVID-19.

How did Crandall prepare you for the future?

For one, I never would have ended up in Ottawa if it were not for the encouragement and support of the faculty and staff at Crandall, particularly Dr. Sam Reimer, who recognized my passion for community development and social justice causes and helped channel that energy by pushing me out of my comfort zone to pursue graduate studies on the topic.

Courses I took at Crandall opened my eyes to the impact that systems within our society have on individuals and helped me to develop my critical eye and analytical skills to engage with complex social issues. Rather than feeling paralyzed by issues of inequality or injustice around us, the sociology courses I took at Crandall helped equip me with the tools to DO something about it, particularly in the area of research and analysis in order to better understand the issues and influencing factors at hand. This analytical thinking is now a muscle I use constantly as part of my everyday work as a public servant.

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