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We Are Liberal Arts: Joel's Story

Joel Wessman, Political-Economic Relations Officer at Consulate General of Canada
February 9, 2017


Portrait: Joel Wessman
Joel Wessman
BA ' 99, political science; MPP '07
In We Are Liberal Arts profiles, we ask our alumni to talk about their career journey, reflect on how their liberal arts education shaped them, and what it taught them to do.

Life is full of interesting twists and turns. Growing up, and through my time at CLA, my dream job was to represent the US abroad, perhaps in a place like Canada. Today, and for the past 15 years, I have instead represented Canada domestically here in the US as the political-economic officer at the Consulate General of Canada in Minneapolis. 

To build relationships between nations

Specifically, my job functions are to: strengthen Canada-US relations by connecting people and ideas across the border; increase the Government of Canada’s understanding of the US by providing political and economic analysis and advice to Global Affairs Canada (Canada’s version of the Department of State); and advance Canadian interests in the US by working with policy makers to (ideally) arrive at mutually agreeable solutions to address shared public policy challenges.

To provide sound advice

As the son of educators I have always been curious and hungry to learn. Studying the liberal arts at CLA was a logical extension of my upbringing and worldview, and also prepared me well for both my career and my general approach to life. Now, more than ever—given the unceasing torrent of information which bombards us on a daily basis—it is vital to be able to think critically about the information we receive in order to analyse and provide sound advice and judgment. The ability to parse sources, understand motivations, ascertain accurate information, and then respond appropriately is vital.

To establish an intellectual structure 

I certainly was able to develop and hone these skills at CLA. I think back in particular to my political science and international relations courses – including those taught by one of my favorite professors, Martin Sampson – as being formative. The opportunity to read, process, think critically, and then debate with my classmates the next day was enormously helpful in establishing the intellectual structure which I use to process information today. 

The ability to think critically and analytically has come in quite handy when I’m faced with those (thankfully rather rare) occasions when I find myself having to advocate for a policy measure with which I might personally disagree.

For current students in CLA we are highlighting career readiness as an integral part of their education.