Internship experience helps policy studies alumna kick-start career

Gabrielle Symbalisty lands role with Legislative Assembly of Alberta

April 14, 2022

Policy Studies alumna Gabrielle Symbalisty.

Experiential learning opportunities and a research-based internship helped Policy Studies alumna Gabrielle Symbalisty prepare for her current position with the Legislative Assembly of Alberta.

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Finding the right program can make all the difference in your university journey. For MRU alumna Gabrielle Symbalisty, Bachelor of Arts — Policy Studies (2021), it took only one intro to a political science class before “something clicked” and she found the right fit for her.

“Policy studies at Mount Royal appealed to me because it’s a well-rounded program and I knew the internship component would help prepare me for the workforce,” she says.

A standout memory for Symbalisty was taking a policy studies course focused on international organizations. Students are introduced to international organizations such as the United Nations (UN), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union, giving them a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of institutions of global governance. The course also includes a simulated UN conference where MRU students convene with other students across the province to represent country delegations. “Attending the Model UN put me out of my comfort zone (in a good way). The experience was so valuable and fun,” Symbalisty says.

In the lead up to her work experience term, Symbalisty enrolled the help of the Career Services job board to learn more about potential opportunities. A research assistant position for a project on job recruitment and retention of environmental and social responsibility (ESR) initiatives caught Symbalisty’s attention. Her application was successful and she spent six months working with Dr. Uthpala Senarathne Tennakoon, PhD, associate professor of human resources at MRU’s Bissett School of Business. At the end of the term, Symbalisty was able to extend her contract and continue working with Tennakoon, which she still does on a part-time basis today.

“I’ve been able to help with three different projects so far, including a multi-phase, multi-source project focused on ESR, which was the most applicable to my program. Using a framework of signaling theory and social identity theory, the project responds to the call for an in-depth investigation of ESR and employer branding,” she explains.

Most recently, Tennakoon and Symbalisty’s peer-reviewed paper, "Motivations for Volunteering, and Managing the Demands across Work, Family, and Community Involvement: Perspectives from Young Adults,” was accepted for presentation at the Administrative Sciences Association of Canada 2022 Conference set to take place in Halifax, Nova Scotia, later this year.

"Overall, the program helped me get to where I am now in my career."

Gabrielle Symbalisty

The opportunity to participate in research allowed Symbalisty to better apply what she learned in the classroom to real-world situations. “It had an immensely positive impact on my last year of classes. I could draw connections and associations that I don’t think I would have made otherwise.”

Graduating in 2021 with a major in policy studies and minor in Political Science, Symbalisty says her MRU experience was a positive one. “I loved attending Mount Royal. The combination of high-quality professors and instructors and smaller class sizes made all the difference for me.” She adds that the policy studies program included many benefits that helped prepare her for where she is today: a legislative co-ordinator for the Legislative Assembly of Alberta.

“Policy studies combines many different subjects, ways of thinking, view and perspectives, and my internship let me apply that knowledge to authentic situations,” she says. “Overall, the program helped me get to where I am now in my career.”

Although fairly fresh in the professional world, Symbalisty has started off strong and has a burgeoning career ahead of her. Working for the Legislative Assembly of Alberta has given her the opportunity to develop her skills and work with MLAs (Members of the Legislative Assembly) and Caucus staff. “It’s been a fantastic experience. I’ve been able to work with many private members and different ministries within the provincial government and written many notable speeches. Every day is different, which I think is one thing that makes my job so exciting.”

Looking to the future, Symbalisty says she would like to eventually work for the Government of Alberta, and possibly in Ottawa on the federal level. Pursuing her master’s degree is also still in the cards.

“I look forward to where my experience and connections will take me next.”