wipa mentorship program

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.

Jennifer McKelvie,
City Councillor,
Ward 25, Scarborough Rouge-Park
Jennifer McKelvie is the Toronto City Councillor for Ward 25, Scarborough Rouge-Park. She has been designated as the Mayor’s Resilience &Environmental Champion and in that capacity has taken an active role in the City of Toronto’s climate change, resilience and ravine strategies. Before entering politics, Jennifer managed research partnerships at the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR). She obtained her training as an environmental geoscientist at the University of Toronto (PGeo, PhD). 

Melissa Lantsman,
Vice President, National Public Affairs,
Enterprise Canada
Melissa is one of the most sought-after public affairs and communications consultants in Canada. She works with companies and organizations to get things noticed, approved and funded by governments. Melissa has a rare portfolio of high-profile positions in the political field and the private sector, from senior leadership roles on federal and provincial election campaigns to leading roles in global public relations firm, one of Canada’s largest banks and one of the world’s biggest brands. Throughout her career, she’s led high-stakes campaigns and provided strategic communications advice,media-training, debate prep and speech coaching to political leaders and C-Suite executives across Canada. Melissa is a frequent media commentator and print contributor. She appears regularly on CBC's Power&Politics', CTV’s Power Play and hosts a weekly radio show on the Bell radio network. She is an active community volunteer and Board Director with Michael Garron Hospital and Hot Docs.

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.

Katie Heelis,
Health Practice Lead,
Enterprise Canada

Katie Heelis is the Health Practice Lead at Enterprise, a national strategic communications firm. Prior to joining Enterprise, Katie was an Issues Manager and Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care where she worked on files including mental health and addictions, public health and health promotion, chronic disease prevention, the legalization of cannabis and health innovation. At Enterprise Katie has led national public affairs, government relations and public relations campaigns for some of Canada’s largest healthcare organizations. A graduate of the Balsillie School of International Affairs, Katie holds a master’s degree in International Public Policy, and is a former Research Fellow at an independent and non-partisan think-tank, the Centre for International Governance and Innovation.

Janette Smith,
City Manager,
City of Hamilton
Janette Smith is the City Manager for the City of Hamilton, taking on the role in May 2019. A champion of improving community health and well-being for the past 30 years, Janette has extensive experience in public service, serving in various senior leadership roles at the Region of Peel for the past two decades. As the Commissioner of Health Services and the Commissioner of Public Works, Janette was instrumental in ensuring this rapidly growing and changing community continued to thrive.  She has focused on priorities such as climate change, waste diversion, growth management, community safety,and building healthy and age-friendly environments.

Susan Baker,
Director (Ontario),
Innovative Medicines Canada
Susan Baker is the Ontario Director at Innovative Medicines Canada (IMC), the national voice of Canada’s research-based pharmaceutical industry representing over 40 companies. Prior to joining IMC, Susan worked for Eli Lilly Canada in various roles including government and stakeholder relations, market access and policy. Susan spent 8 years at the Ontario Ministry of Health after completing a two-year Management Intern Program. During her time at the Ministry of Health,she had the opportunity to work for three different governments –Liberal, NDP and Conservative.Susan started her career as a nurse at Toronto General Hospital. She has worked/volunteered in northern British Columbia and Pakistan in health care, and in South Africa in education. Susan has always been passionate about patient care and health outcomes.

Bethany Osborne,
Director, Stakeholder Relations & Business Development,
Centre for Education & Training

Bethany Osborne is the Director, Stakeholder Relations & Business Development at the Centre for Education & Training where she leads government relations efforts for the organization. She monitors, tracks, and analyzes legislative, regulatory, and policy activities and initiatives that would align with TCET financial goals and competencies. Prior this position, Bethany worked in government relations at the Canadian Beverage Association and the Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario. Bethany has a degree in Public Administration and Governance from Ryerson University and is currently completing a certificate in Strategic Public Relations from the
University of Toronto.

Michelle Saunders,
Vice President, Provincial Affairs and Sustainability,
Food & Consumer Products of Canada

Michelle Saunders is the Vice President of Provincial Affairs and Sustainability at Food & Consumer Products of Canada.  Representing Canada's food, beverage and consumer goods manufacturers, she oversees all policy and advocacy efforts related to environmental sustainability and throughout the COVID-19 crisis Michelle has worked with provincial governments on policies to ensure continuity of Canada's food and consumer goods supply chains. She has worked on public policy related to plastics, waste diversion, public health,
supply chain, labour and trade. With over 15 years of experience offering strategic public policy and government relations guidance to the business community and on-the ground advocacy at all levels of government, Michelle's perspective on advocacy builds on her background in politics. Prior to her work in trade associations she worked at Queen's Park, both in the office of the Premier and in the offices of a number of Cabinet Ministers.

Michelle Eaton,
Vice President,
Ontario Chamber of Commerce

A communications and public affairs professional for close to 15 years, Michelle Eaton joined the OCC team in 2018 as Vice President of Communications and Government Relations. Michelle brings extensive leadership experience from both the public and private sectors. She has provided strategic direction, vision, and advice on communications and public affairs strategies to executives in multinational Fortune 500 Companies as well as senior federal cabinet ministers. Michelle is also currently the Chair of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
Michelle has a BA (Hons) in Political Science and French from Western University as well as an Executive Master of Business Administration from Ivey Business School.

Krista Orendoff,
Vice-President,
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.

Semhar Tekeste,
Senior Public Affairs Consultant,
Enterprise Canada
Semhar is a senior public affairs consultant at Enterprise. A seasoned stakeholder relations professional and an expert in the complex dynamics of policy creation, Semhar dedicates her vast skill set towards one goal: Delivering a win for the client. Prior to joining the public affairs consulting world, Semhar served as a political staffer on Parliament Hill where she worked on federal campaigns for over a decade and served as a senior advisor to multiple cabinet ministers at the federal level. Most recently she oversaw Stakeholder Outreach for the Leader of the Official Opposition. Semhar's current work focuses on providing strategic advice in developing policy at every stage, from idea generation to Royal Assent, and executing effective government relations campaigns for her clients.

Applications for the Summer 2020 WIPA Program are
now closed. Please check back in late October 2020.


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