Kaidie Williams finds resilience after the hurricanes
When hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated the Caribbean in 2017, Kaidie Williams was just starting her Master of Public Policy (MPP) degree. Cut off from regular communication with her family, the international student from Dominica received an urgent text from her brother: send food. It was the toughest moment of her life. And yet, she persevered with the challenge of staying focused on school with the help of the friends she had made during the first two weeks of the program.
“My friends in this program soon became my family,” says the 2019 MPP candidate. “We shared joy, laughter and so many more memories—all of which gave me strength. From group assignments to school initiatives, there was always someone to talk to and there was always a shoulder to cry on.”
After earning a degree in economics and international relations at the University of British Columbia, Williams decided to study at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy. The hurricanes reinforced to her the importance of public policy. “We can cope with a lot of natural disasters through policy,” she says. “I am really interested in creating a toolbox of skills that I can bring back home to ensure that we build resilience in Dominica and the Caribbean as a whole.”
Williams spent her summer internship working in the water resources section of Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry in Peterborough, which dovetailed with her interest in climate change policy. For her culminating capstone project, Williams investigated how the federal government could achieve its greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets without disproportionately affecting low- and middle-income households.
Despite the upheaval in her personal life after the hurricanes, Williams made sure to participate in life beyond the classroom. She served as director of the Munk School’s student-run Gender, Diversity Public Policy Initiative (GDPP and as the co-manager of a panel at the Black Policy Conference held at Harvard’s Kennedy School. Both opportunities allowed her to bring an equity lens to her policy studies and to have the kind of difficult conversations—with professors, classmates and friends—that make her degree come to life.
Her extracurricular work paid off. After asking the former Liberal Minister of Education Mitizie Hunter to speak at a year-end GDPP conference, Williams was invited to work for Hunter, the current Member of Provincial Parliament for Scarborough—Guildwood, becoming her Executive Assistant in May.
“The MPP degree gave me a sense of awareness and political acuity that’s really beneficial in my new role,” says Williams. “It improved my ability to communicate clearly and concisely, allowing me to clearly articulate current provincial legislation.”