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PODS Spotlight: Kate Marr-Laing

Hi everyone! I’m Kate. This fall, I’ll be starting my final year of a joint honours degree in political science and gender, sexuality, and feminist studies. I’m interested in community-based research and social policy, which is why I’m excited to have been placed at the Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP) this summer as part of the PODS program!

Throughout my last few years at McGill, I struggled to merge my scattered interests. I cycled through several majors, and was envious of those with a clear idea of what they wanted out of their degree. I came to realize that what I enjoyed most within my classes was reading and listening to other people’s stories, and I started to focus on how Canadian political and social institutions shaped and controlled those narratives. I gravitated towards public policy as an avenue to act on my academic interests, and saw the PODS program as a way to gain insight into the policy world while developing increasingly pertinent skills in data science and quantitative research. It remained unclear, however, how I could continue to incorporate people’s stories, and their inherent power, into the data-driven analysis I would be learning to conduct.

I remained apprehensive that I would have to set aside my critiques of quantitative methods until about three minutes into the first day of the PODS bootcamp, when it became clear that this program would be a setting where I could bring all of my various and seemingly competing values, passions, and skills to the table. The program centered the knowledge and experiences of the PODS fellows while giving us the skills to grapple with the rapidly changing world of data science.

Other than hanging out with Rufus, my work at the IRPP involves using these new skills to make projections of the incidence, prevalence, and impact of dementia across Canada’s provinces and territories. This experience has not only exposed me to the baffling complexity of policy problems, but has taught me how to root my understanding and analysis of dementia-related policy questions within people’s stories - like that of my grandparents.

I am so grateful for the passion and innovation that each mentor, instructor, and PODS team member has brought to this program. I continue to draw constant inspiration from them, as well as from the exceptional fellows that I’ve had the chance to work alongside this summer. I can’t wait to see where this experience leads us all!


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Policy & Data Science Program 


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