wipa mentorship program

The Women in Public Affairs Mentorship Program

One-on-one mentorship combined with a series of three workshops designed to grow your network and skillset.
  • Provide mentees with access to the knowledge and networks of their mentors.
  • Create networking opportunities for women interested in engaging with PAAC’s members.
  • Provide mentors with the opportunity to help to shape the next generation of Public Affairs leaders by sharing their insight and experience.

Who Should Apply

We are looking for emerging public affairs women mentees and mentors from Ontario. Mentees who are interested in becoming more involved in the public affairs or politics, either personally or professionally, will be partnered with mentors with senior experience in politics, government, and communications. 
Who are our Mentees:
  • Often in school or at the beginning of their public affairs career (0-4 years).
  • Have a passion for learning, politics, government, or public affairs.
  • Able to dedicate at least 2 hours per month to meet with their mentor and participate in the program.
  • Looking to connect with like-minded women and share experiences.
Who are our Mentors:
  • Passionate and dedicated public affairs professionals.
  • At least 4 years of experience in Government, Politics, Public Affairs, Communications, or Government Relations.
  • Willing to lend talents, time, and energy to empowering the next generation of women leaders.
  • Willing to learn!
Open to all PAAC members
Fill out an application here
Women in Public Affairs (WIPA) Mentorship Program!

This is a unique opportunity to work with successful senior professionals working across the public affairs industry.

Space will be limited with mentees matched based on the preferences of the mentee and the experience of the mentor. We encourage mentees to be very specific in their applications about what the areas of expertise and traits they are looking for.

Join us over the next few months for discussions covering a variety of topics, including career path recommendations and moves, virtual interviews, work-life balance, and what the ‘new normal’ is looking like for public affairs.

Time commitment for mentees is approximately 2 hours a month for the duration of the 4-month program. While there is no fee to apply, we will be asking successful candidates consider a donation of $25 to support three local charities:

  • Black Women in Motion - This Toronto-based, youth-led organization "empowers and supports the advancement of black women and survivors of sexual violence" through training and advocacy work.
  • Women's Health in Women's Hands - This community health centre in Toronto provides care for women in African and Caribbean (as well as Latin American and South Asian) communities.
  • The Most Nurtured - The Most Nurtured is a Toronto-based holistic wellness program created for black women, by black women. The programming, which includes community yoga, panels, and workshops, is
    currently on pause due to COVID-19, but aims to help LGBTQ+, non-binary, and trans women connect with and become the most nurtured version of themselves.
We are pleased to introduce a number of WIPA mentors below:

Jacqueline Dobson,
Advocacy Manager –Eastern Canada,
Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson

Jacqueline Dobson is the Advocacy Manager for Eastern Canada for the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson. In this role, Jacqueline spearheads government affairs and policy initiatives to provide access to effective and affordable medicines for the people who need them. Prior to joining Janssen, Jacqueline worked at Queen’s Park focusing on legislation for funding equity of rare disease treatments. Jacqueline has also worked in other healthcare-focused roles including a Marketing Communications Consultant at Sun Life Financial and as a Business Development Manager at IQVIA (one of the world’s largest healthcare analytics firm). Outside of work Jacqueline is: an avid skier,beginner golfer, classically-trained vocalist and champion for mental health access.

Mai Nguyen Ph.D,
Manager of Government Relations,
Shaw Communications
Mai Nguyen is the Manager of Government Relations for Shaw Communications/Freedom Mobile, Canada’s 4th largest telecommunications service provider in Canada. At Shaw, Mai is responsible for the company’s government and external-stakeholder relations for Ontario.  Prior to joining Shaw, Mai was a policy advisor to several former Ontario Ministers, holding files in consumer protection and consumer finance. Before joining government,Mai was a professor of Political Science and Public Policy at York University where she also obtained her Ph.D.

Pat Dunwoody,
Consultant and Executive Director,
Canadian ETF Association
Pat has her own consulting firm and has contracts with a variety of organizations specifically targeting the improvement of processes and strengthening leadership capabilities.   She is also the Executive Director of the Canadian ETF Association, which was the first (and only) ETF Association in the world.  She has spent over 35 years in the Financial Services industry as a client and relationship-focused executive with an in-depth background in all aspects of the industry. Some of her past roles include, Vice President, Member Services &Communications at Investment Funds institute of Canada, Vice President, Business Development & Market Intelligence at IFDS,Vice President, Service and Quality at AIM Funds Management Inc. and Director of Customer Relations and Distributor Services at Fidelity Investments Canada.

Robyn Gray,
Vice President in the Energy and Environment Practice,
Sussex Strategy

Robyn Gray is a Vice President in the Energy and Environment Practice at Sussex Strategy Group. Robyn works with clients on issues related to climate change, sustainability and carbon pricing, as well as energy supply and related permitting and approvals. She also provides counsel and strategic advice to a number of clients in the environment and waste diversion sector throughout the supply chain. Prior to joining to Sussex, Robyn was a senior consultant at a leading public affairs firm in Australia, providing strategic counsel to a number of domestic and international clients. Over the course of seven years, Robyn also worked at Queen’s Park and on Parliament Hill in a variety of ministerial offices.

Krista Orendoff,
Public Affairs at the Council of Ontario Universities (COU)

Krista Orendorff is the Vice-President of Public Affairs at the Council of Ontario Universities (COU). She leads COU's communications and government relations strategy through building relationships with government officials and key stakeholders and leveraging public
awareness to advance the priorities of Ontario's universities, while demonstrating how universities are partners in building a better future for our students, communities and province.

Krista has more than 19 years of experience working in public affairs at the provincial and international level. Prior to her work with COU, she led national advocacy campaigns and provincial government relations at the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Additionally, she has
held several positions for provincial Cabinet Ministers and worked internationally with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Alexis Easton,
Vice President, Public Affairs
Royal Ontario Museum
In this role, Alexis leads the development and implementation of the Museum’s government engagement and compliance strategies and is responsible for actively stewarding the ROM’s relationship with all levels of government including liaising with provincial partners on opportunities related to funding and  leveraging the reputation of the ROM locally, nationally and internationally. Previously, Alexis held senior political staff roles in both the Premier’s Office and Treasury Board,  as well as senior roles at the consultancy firms Sussex Strategy and Spiro Solutions.

Christina Marciano,
Senior Associate, Energy and Environment Practice
Sussex Strategy Group

With a passion for energy and environmental issues, she is adept at legislative and
regulatory interpretation, policy development, and stakeholder advocacy. Christina works primarily with clients on matters pertaining to resource recovery and the circular economy, climate change policy, carbon pricing, chemicals management, energy efficiency, renewable energy, as well as other environmentally-focused issues. Christina holds a Master of Arts in Political Studies from Queen's University where she also earned her Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Political Studies and Women's Studies. Christina joined Sussex in 2012.

Colleen  Ryan,
Vice President, Strategic Communications
Sussex Strategy Group

She is an award-winning communications professional with leadership experience in the private, public, and labour sectors. She cut her chops in the agency world on the east coast, before spending a decade in health care communications followed
by a return to consulting where she works with and advises leaders in a variety of sectors including oil, energy, natural resources, health, labour, insurance, and more. Colleen holds her Bachelor of Public Relations from Mount Saint Vincent University along with a certificate in Not-for-Profit Board Governance from the Institute of Corporate Directors and Rotman School of Management. She's earned professional designations as an Accredited Business Communicator (ABC) through the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) and as a Communications and Advertising Accredited Professional through the Institute of Communications Agencies. She has also received numerous awards from IABC recognizing sound strategic process, successful implementation, and thorough evaluation in her work, including two IABC Gold Quill Awards of Excellence.

Kayla Lewis,
Director of Communications and Public Affairs,
Seneca College Toronto

Prior to joining Seneca is 2013, she was a political staffer having served as a senior regional advisor to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and communications advisor to the Hon. John Milloy - Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, and Minister of Research and Innovation. Kayla is passionate about reputation management and publicly-funded education. She is a mother of two who enjoys baking and crafting with her little ones.

Sadaf Abbasi,
Senior Associate,
Stosic & Associates

Sadaf has extensive knowledge of the regulatory and legislative processes at the municipal and provincial levels of government. Sadaf has supported a wide and diverse array of clients and organizations in successfully influencing and shaping government policy, managing government relations and advocacy initiatives. Sadaf holds an Honours BA in International Relations and Global Development from Ryerson University and Freie Universitat Berlin. She is an active volunteer and holds various board positions and is involved in numerous community initiatives. Sadaf is an avid runner and frequently participates in marathons and other sporting events as a personal challenge.

Stephanie Bellotto,
Press Secretary for the Minister of Municipal Affairs

Prior to joining the Minister's Office she worked in the Premier's Office in a similar capacity managing intergovernmental affairs. Stephanie has also worked in Public Affairs for FleishmanHillard HighRoad and was VP of University Affairs at Wilfrid Laurier University.

Sarah Letersky,
Rubicon Strategy

Sarah is based out of Toronto. Rubicon Strategy is a government relations and digital marketing firm that advises companies and associations in the fields of health care, social services, gaming, cannabis, government procurement, entertainment, energy, and more. Prior to joining Rubicon, Sarah worked in Premier Ford's government as a Director of Communications at the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation, and Trade, and as a Chief of Staff at the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services.

Claire Prashaw,
Director of Public Affairs,

OPTrust is one of Canada's largest defined benefit pension plans. In leading OPTrust's external relations, Claire's responsibilities include managing media relations, government relations, and advocacy efforts, in addition to managing outreach for OPTrust Select, a pension plan for Ontario's nonprofit sector. Claire brings over a decade of experience in public policy, advocacy, international development, and government and stakeholder relations. Previously, Claire worked in International Development in Latin America, and at Queen's Park as a Policy and Legislative Advisor for a Member of Provincial Parliament. She also served in a stakeholder relations role for the late Hon. Jack Layton, Leader of the Official Opposition. Claire holds an Honours B.A. from Trent University, a Bachelor of Education (B.Ed) from York University, and a post graduate certificate in Public Relations from the University of Toronto. She is currently studying Strategic Management at Harvard Business School.

Ceara Copps - Edwards
Manager of Public Affairs
Ontario Chamber of Commerce

An experienced and passionate public affairs and communications professional with diverse background and experience, Ceara Copps - Edwards joined the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) in 2017. As Manager of Public Affairs at the OCC, Ceara advocates on behalf of 60,000 members at Queen's Park, leading communications and government relations on key policy issues and reports as well as signature events. Ceara currently sits as the Communications Chair for the Public Affairs Association of Canada (Ontario Chapter) board. With her love for delicious food and healthy eating, Ceara started her food blog, Ceara's Kitchen in 2013 which has grown into a sustainable business with 200+ new and original healthy recipes, 95K+ social followers & 200K pageviews a month. Ceara has a BA (Hons) from the University of Ottawa as well as a Master of Science and Culture in Cultural and Social Anthropology from the KU Leuven in Belgium.

Gabrielle Gallant,
Senior Director of Government Affairs,
Canadian Beverage Association (CBA)

Prior to joining the CBA, Gabrielle worked in the office of Premier Wynne, where she focused on issues management and media relations. Before that, she ran the Communications and Operations team at the Treasury Board Secretariat.

In roles prior, she has been a senior consultant at a large firm and was Director of Communications at an industry association. During that time out of politics, Gabrielle developed and executed government relations strategies, successfully lobbied on behalf of clients and provided strategic communications counsel. Her career began in politics, with roles in the offices of the Ministers of Finance and also Agriculture and Food. Gabrielle holds a degree in political science and classical history from the University of Toronto, and has focused her volunteer efforts on causes that relate to gender equality and social justice. This includes the founding of a community support program, Davenport Helps, at the beginning of the pandemic.

Bonnie Hiltz,
Vice President,
Sussex Strategy

Since 2005, Bonnie has been intimately involved with the evolution of electricity supply policies, having worked at both the Ministry of Energy and the Ontario Power Authority (now the IESO). She has contributed to the design and implementation of the coal phase-out strategy and multiple supply procurements. She was also involved in contract management functions for billions of dollars of supply agreements with the OPA/IESO. Bonnie left the public sector in 2014 to oversee Government and Regulatory Affairs for a major international utility and energy services provider. In this role she advised on supply and de-carbonization policies and assisted business development efforts across Canada. In her current role Bonnie serves a number of clients in the energy sector as they navigate the complex government and regulatory environment. Bonnie currently serves on the Board of the Ontario Waterpower Association (OWA) and has previously served on the Boards of the Canadian Solar Industries Association and the Canadian Wind Energy Association (now merged as the Canadian Renewable Energy Association). She has served as a mentor for young professionals and has volunteered her time for a variety of organizations focused on topics ranging from renewable energy education to newcomer services.

Alexandria Anderson
Public Affairs Officer
Ontario Power Generation

Alexandria is responsible for building and managing relationships with Ontario Power Generation's stakeholders, including senior officials, government, industries and communities. Her responsibilities also include developing and providing insight, analysis and recommendations on both government and stakeholder policies and strategies. Alexandria received her degree in Communications and Public Relations from the University of Guelph-Humber and her diploma in Public Administration from the University of Guelph.

Shazia Vlahos
Chief of Communications and Government Relations
Toronto Catholic District School Board

Shazia is currently the Chief of Communications and Government Relations for the Toronto Catholic District School Board. Previously, she was Special Advisor to Premier Kathleen Wynne, and Director of Communications and Senior Policy Advisor to three Ontario Minister's of Education. Shazia also served as political staff in the B.C government to the Minister of Health and policy lead to Premier Christy Clark, where she managed the policy development process for the 2013 platform. Shazia is a Senior Executive on MAX Aspire providing mentorship to aspiring professionals. She previously served on the 519 Board and was Co-Chair on the Strategic Planning and Priorities Committee. Shazia also served on the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) Engage Board and was one of the Co-Founders and Chair on the Sub-Committee for Education and Awareness. Shazia holds a Masters and Bachelors degree in Political Science from the University of Manitoba.

Drew Davidson
Corporate Social Responsibility
Education Programs Lead

Drew Davidson is a Toronto-based communications strategist who has worked in politics, non-profits and media. Over the last decade, her work has centred on creating policy changes at the local, national and international levels, from writing about international development to leading anti-racism initiatives within the Ontario government. Drew's writing has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star and Huffington Post.

Meghan Spilka O'Keefe
Director of Government and Community Relations
Colleges Ontario

Meghan is the Director of Government and Community Relations at Colleges Ontario, the organization that represents Ontario's 24 public colleges. Meghan first cut her teeth in government relations by working for clients within the military procurement sector in Ottawa and has since worked in Ottawa on federal GR in the health promotion sector and in Toronto in provincial GR. Meghan has worked for a professional association, two not-for-profits, a consultancy firm, and (briefly) on Parliament Hill. Meghan has a master's degree in public policy and international affairs from the University of Ottawa. She also studied at the University of Guelph and the University of Swaziland. In her spare time, actively serves in the Canadian Army Reserves and, in the past, has deployed domestically to support natural disaster relief efforts.

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