Sept. 18, 2017

Alumni Spotlight: Hardave Birk BA'14 (Political Science)

Arts alumni are an accomplished crew. They have great advice for students and fellow graduates, and know that arts degrees teach skills that are sought-after in the professional environment.
Hardave Birk BA'14 (Political Science)

Hardave Birk BA'14, from the Department of Political Science is a Government Relations Advisor with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. Birk works on behalf of Canada’s municipalities to represent and advance the interests of cities and communities to the Government of Canada. His job involves developing government relations strategies, meeting with federal elected officials and their staff, and monitoring and assessing the federal, provincial/territorial and municipal political environments. Prior to working at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Birk spent three years working on Parliament Hill and completed his Masters of Political Management at Carleton University. While at UCalgary, Birk was heavily involved in campus athletics and held the positions of President and Vice-President External at the University of Calgary Students' Union.

What is your favourite University of Calgary memory?

It is hard to pick just one memory, but many of my best memories were spending time at the Den with friends, especially on Thursday nights for Thursden. I can remember lining up for two hours in first year just to get in and see classmates and residence roommates. I even made some of my best friends while waiting in the line up just to get in. I made many friends at the Den in my first year of university and in later years, it was a great place to reconnect and keep in touch with folks. Spending time there is something I will never forget and I spent some amazing times there watching the Dinos’ compete in the Vanier Cup, being there on SU election nights, or just going for a beer with classmates.

What was your favourite campus hang out spot?

My favourite campus hang out spot was Brew N’ Blendz located in Baron’s Court in Kinesiology. When I lived in residence I would spend hours every day hanging out at Brew N’ Blendz with my friends and the beloved manager Annette Schmirler made everyone feel like they were at home. It was such a welcoming and friendly atmosphere and I often look back fondly on the many many many hours I logged there. Plus, the smoothies and breakfast bagels were the best thing to eat on campus!

If you could give one piece of advice to an undergraduate completing the same degree that you did, what would it be?

To truly get the most out of your campus experience, find something you’re passionate about outside of the classroom and get involved. Whether you are just volunteering or taking on an executive role in the Students’ Union, these experiences are what will shape the beginning of your career and set you apart as you enter the workforce. If I had chosen just to go to class and not get involved with the Dinos and Students’ Union my post-university career would look much different than it has.

How has your career evolved?

After spending my last year on campus as the President of the Students’ Union, I moved to Ottawa to work on Parliament Hill. Working on the hill gave me a wide range of experience and in depth knowledge about the day-to-day work of the political arm of Canada’s government. While working full time I also pursued a Masters degree to enhance my skillset and network. With those experiences behind me I was able to transition into government relations where I now work with mayors and city councillors from coast to coast to advance their agenda with the federal government. I have gone from being an elected representative on campus to supporting federal politicians to working with municipal politicians from coast to coast to advance their agenda.

What is the best thing about your job?

I’ve been very lucky to land at an organization where I truly support the cause and goals that drive the organizations agenda. Every single day I get to come into work and with energetic and motivated people who are excited about what we are doing. Knowing that I have the opportunity to work in an environment I am personally excited about makes going to work every day a blast.

How did your arts degree help you get to where you are now/your current career?

I actually started at UCalgary as a Kinesiology student, but in my first year I took a political science course. I loved the course so much that I knew immediately I had to switch majors and pursue an arts degree in political science. Without my arts degree I absolutely would not be where I am today as the degree imparted in me the critical thinking, writing, persuasive and creative skills needed to work in a constantly changing environment like politics. In my line of work there often isn’t a right and wrong answer, but instead there is a need to see a problem from multiple points of view and understand how to bring multiple viewpoints to the same conclusion. Studying the arts prepares students very well for this type of environment.

Do you have any other thoughts or memories you would like to share?

In 2012 UCalgary hosted the CIS Women’s basketball championships at the Jack Simpson Gym. At the time I was working as an announcer and in-game host for the basketball, volleyball, and football teams. The Dinos women came into the tournament ranked 8th and in our first game, the women played the top-seeded URegina Cougars. The university community came out and absolutely packed the Jack with the most energetic and lively crowd I ever saw in that gym. The crowd was so fired up and excited that you could barely talk to the person next to you. The women went on to upset URegina and it was one of the best showings of school spirit I have ever seen. The fact that the 8th seed Women’s team pulled off a massive win was really a testament to the support shown by our University community.