Michelle Silongan: Beyond Borders


Currently studying law at Queen Mary, University of London, Michelle Silongan (BA ’09, MPP ’11) is interested in the intersections between political science, public policy, and law.  She is a proponent of the United States studies program at UBC, which she minored in along with her political science major.

“UBC is a world-class facility and, with the creation of the US studies program, it was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up,” Michelle said. “The professors at UBC offer a level of expertise that is difficult to get outside of the US.”

Michelle attributes much of her academic success to Dr. Paul Quirk, the head of the US studies department.  His mentorship helped Michelle strengthen her confidence in her abilities, and he suggested the School of Public Policy at Simon Fraser University to Michelle as an option for graduate studies.

“My pivotal moment was in my third year, when I joined the US Studies program.  Everything I learned until then made sense within the textbook and inside the classroom, but I was searching for where it all resonated with the day-to-day world,” said Michelle. “However, I realized it was the very process of conceptualizing that bridge where my interests lay, and with ingenuity, risk-taking, and creativity, I could articulate my own place within that field.”

During her undergraduate years Michelle was also involved with the Ubyssey.  A staff culture writer, Michelle had to opportunity to interview bands such as Metric and Vampire Weekend at Pemberton Music Festival.  Her interest in arts and culture culminated with her graduate thesis, which focused on governmental supports for emerging Canadian artists.

“My time at UBC increased my willingness to take risks, to explore new opportunities, and to draw connections in places that wouldn’t normally be covered, recognized, or understood,” said Michelle. “Canadian music is such a central part of our identity, and we should ensure that new, talented artists can have the opportunity to support themselves through their work. The business model for music has already changed, and even within current budgets it is possible to adapt the funding infrastructure in a way that responds to the new status quo.”

After completing her Master’s degree in Public Policy at SFU, Michelle began to work as a Legislative Assistant in the Parliament of Canada.  In this role she was able to use her expertise in political science, US studies, and public policy on a regular basis.

“One highlight of my time there was meeting with White House, Congressional and State Department officials in Washington to discuss science and technology policy, and being able to use that insight to help develop a framework for national science policy in Canada,” Michelle commented. “It was during this process that my unique background in US studies came to the forefront, and it underscored the lessons we could learn from the political and cultural context from which US science and technology policy has evolved over the past 75 years.”

These opportunities inspired Michelle to return to academia and pursue a law degree in the UK for an international lens on her practical experiences from both the policy and the political side of the Canadian lawmaking process. From the Student Union Building to the House of Commons, Michelle is grateful for the direction that her undergraduate degree has taken her and is looking forward to wherever her journey takes her next.

“I can say unequivocally that I wouldn’t have been on this career path had it not been for my degree at UBC. It was the instruction at UBC that challenged my limits and nurtured the skill set that has given me the edge academically and professionally, and the support of my professors and classmates that unlocked opportunities I wouldn’t have thought possible on my very first day of classes.”