Finishing the year on a high note

08 February 2021

With a lot of discipline and hard work, Sarah Goodwin completed Crawford School’s Master of Public Policy while working full time for the ACT Government. Having the opportunity to put her knowledge into practice in her role in children and families policy helped her make the most of her study experience.

Crawford graduate Sarah Goodwin is not one to stay idle for long. When she first started a graduate position with the ACT Government she was studying a graduate certificate in public administration, but she didn’t stop there.

On a mission to deepen her knowledge, Sarah came across Crawford’s Master of Public Policy, and decided to pursue the degree while progressing her career and working full time.

“After I worked in my role for a year, I wanted to really do some extra study in public policy. I felt that I had found my niche, and what I wanted to do with my career.

“I studied part-time, one course per semester, completing the degree in five and a half years.”

For her journey, Sarah needed a lot of discipline and structure, but she could also rely on her private and professional support network to back her up when things got tricky.

“I had an incredibly supportive boss and team, and my husband was also a great support, looking after things at home so I could study.

“I just had to be really disciplined and organised to ensure that my assignment deadlines didn’t clash with my work commitments.”

The best part of working while studying was the opportunity to immediately apply the skills and knowledge she picked from the courses she took at Crawford, Sarah said.

“In the end, I really enjoyed doing the degree while working, because the things that I was learning one day in a class at Crawford, I could apply the next day in my job. I found this immediate application really helpful for my learning progress.

“When I was studying Björn Dressel’s excellent course on Evidence and Analysis in Public Policy, I used what I learnt in the course about policy analysis techniques to develop a presentation to my division as part of work to enhance innovation in our strategic thinking about social policy problems.

“This helped to build policy capacity in our division to understand the strengths and weaknesses of different policy analysis techniques and inject new ideas on how we might work better with the community to understand and solve problems.”

As the Director of the Human Services Policy team in the Community Services Directorate, Sarah naturally was most interested in social policy.

“We make policy related to child protection and youth justice issues. I’ve also been responsible for implementing the National Redress Scheme for survivors of child sexual abuse.

“Because of that, the courses I enjoyed most were those on social policy. My favourite class was Global Social Policy with Professor Sharon Bessell. I got to do some assignments for her around the youth justice system, and it aligned so perfectly with the work I was doing at the time.”

Just like every other student, Sarah spent most of her final semesters studying online due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the obstacles, Sarah said the move to digital classes actually worked in her favour as she was busy responding to the impact of COVID-19 in her job, and it also made bigger classes more engaging.

“It was challenging, but also a bit of a blessing in disguise, because at that point I was doing two courses and work was incredibly busy because we were dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Having flexibility and not having to drive between work and uni actually was a real blessing for me.

“In Cases in Contemporary Public Policy Associate Professor Sara Bice and Associate Professor Carolyn Hendriks really used Zoom to its full capacity, creating different class quizzes and making online learning really fun.

“I think it was almost better online than in person. It was a big course, with about a hundred students, but the way they structured it you actually got to meet everyone over the course of the semester.”

Graduating with High Distinction, Sarah is looking forward to further building her career in the area of children and families policy, a field that she said is incredibly gratifying to work in.

“In this field, you actually get to see the impact your work has on vulnerable families on the ground. It’s not just an idea or a concept, but you can really change people’s lives for the better. I hope I continue to work in this area - with the Master of Public Policy as my foundation.”

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