Studying the Master of Public Policy: Tess Harwood

17 September 2019

What’s your name?

I’m Tess Harwood and I’m from the Sunshine Coast which is about an hour north of Brisbane. I moved to Canberra in September 2017 with the intention of starting in first semester 2018.

What degree are you studying at the Crawford School of Public Policy?

I study the Master of Public Policy.

Where are you currently working and what is your job title?

I’m working as a Project Officer at East Asia Forum (EAF). EAF is a prominent platform focusing on public policy analysis, research and debate on issues in the Asia-Pacific region. My work differs weekly, however, I generally organise events, edit articles, write press releases and liaise with our stakeholders. My favourite part of the job is having the opportunity to get to know experts in certain policy topics in the Asia Pacific. I’m also exposed to a wide range of academic debate and literature on issues in the Asia-Pacific region.

What did you study at undergraduate level?

For my undergraduate degree I studied a Bachelor of International Relations majoring in Japanese and Indonesia. I loved studying languages and my passion was noticed by my professors who nominated me to receive the New Colombo Plan Scholarship, a flagship program to get Australian students studying and interning in the Indo-Pacific region. I received the scholarship and chose to study in Indonesia. I went to study intensive Indonesian language at Mataram University in Lombok, an island off Bali. I lived with a Hindu family and their menagerie of pets (2 monkeys, 1 eagle, 16 dogs and 5 cats). I fell in love with Indonesia and the warmth of the Indonesian people. I then went to Yogyakarta to study at Gadjah Mada University where I fully immersed myself in Indonesian classes to study politics and international relations classes from their perspective.

I graduated overseas and applied for an internship at the Australian Embassy in Jakarta. I did two placements. One at the Australian Trade Commission and the other in the Cultural Affairs Division of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. At Austrade, I wrote strategic investment reports. The most notable was on possible venture avenues for two-way marine trade between Australia and Indonesia for the Australia Marine Export Group. My report was highly praised by Senior Trade Commissioner Kym Hewett and distributed to offices throughout Australia and Asia so that staff could research into my maverick ideas of harvesting horseshoe crab blood and Halal “bacon” flavoured seaweed. While interning at DFAT, I drafted interdepartmental cables as well as speeches and presentations for senior diplomatic officials and was organising cultural outreach programs that upheld and forwarded the government’s strategic direction.

After finishing my internship I worked as the Marketing Manager for a startup company which helped fresh graduates and young professionals find meaningful careers. I was then offered a job as Country Manager for Indonesia at Growth Hacking Asia, a consultancy company teaching and implementing strategies to grow and market startup businesses.

What made you decide to apply for the Crawford School?

When I went to study in Indonesia, I studied with some students from ANU, specifically from the College of Asia and the Pacific. I have always been interested in the Asia Pacific, especially as its influence in Australia and Australian politics grows. Those ANU students were all incredibly talented and outstanding students and became great friends of mine. I knew after finishing my undergraduate degree that I wanted to study a postgraduate degree in the College of Asia and the Pacific - the world’s largest hub of expertise on the Asia-Pacific region.

How did you choose your particular further study course (compared to others)?

I had an open mind to my postgraduate degree when I came to Canberra (as long as it was in the College of Asia and the Pacific). I went to an ANU postgraduate event to speak to the representatives of each degree. I found out that Crawford had started specialisations which show on your transcript. This really caught my attention as I could have the practical knowledge from the public policy degree but also specialise, which I can then use to showcase to potential employers.

What was the process to get accepted into your course? What were the prerequisites?

Crawford School directly accepts applications so it is a bit different from the other postgraduate courses I applied for through the University Admissions Centre (UAC). Applying directly to the School put me in direct contact with the course convener. I felt immediately welcomed and any questions I had were quickly answered. The School also gave credit for my previous study in a related field and I was able to cut my study time by a semester.

What does your study involve? Can you describe a typical day at Crawford School?

I usually wake up early and go for a walk up Mount Ainslie. When I get home, I get ready and ride my bike about 10 minutes to Crawford. I always study at Crawford because if I try to do it at home, I’ll never get anything done. I go to my favourite spot in the computer lab and set up to re-listen to lectures, read the assigned class readings or work on assignments. The students hang out in the common room for lunch, so just after 12pm I go out to eat and socialise. Over lunch, we talk about what’s happening in their respective countries, our favourite foods or what’s happening in our class. Most of my lectures are in the evening, so I go back to the lab to continue doing work until then. After class, I usually go with my peers to make some dinner and relax.

What characteristics or skills do you hope to gain by completing your course?

The Master of Public Policy aims to equip people with the knowledge/tools needed to make the best possible policy decisions. Those tools can range from knowing which types of evidence to use to analyse a particular problem, to critical thinking and analysis skills to recognise the logic of situations as well as their repercussions. I already am, and hope to continue building these skills.

Will this course be beneficial in your career? Where could you or others in your position go from here?

I think that critical analysis and pragmatism learnt in my studies will be a key skill to future potential employers. This degree is providing me with the high-level policy knowledge needed in the pursuit of a transformative career in government, granting me the unparalleled opportunity to learn from industry-leading experts and enabling me to connect with both domestic and international like-minded thinkers.

What do you love the most about your course?

My peers are fantastic. They all have interesting experiences and bring a lot of different perspectives to class. I love that Crawford School has its own Academic Skills Advisors who have saved me countless times when I’ve been stuck on what to do for an assignment. In general, however, I love being challenged. I’ve been confronted with different ways of thinking and had to weigh up conflicting theories to analyse real-life situations.

What are the limitations of your course?

In the beginning, I was worried about some of Crawford’s compulsory courses, such as economics, which I had never studied before. The compulsory courses can be daunting, but, economics has actually been my favourite course so far. It’s so important to not limit yourself and take an open mind to all aspects of your degree!

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Updated:  22 October 2019/Responsible Officer:  Crawford Engagement/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team