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Multi-Disciplinary Experience Helps Trent Alumnus Succeed at Justice Canada

Stephen van der Werf '03 bridges the gaps between law, stats, and computers

"You wouldn't expect a person with an educational background in philosophy, computers, and economics to have the opportunity to apply all three of those areas to their work, but I make use of them every day of my life," says Trent University alumnus Stephen van der Werf ‘03.

Mr. van der Werf, who graduated from Trent in 2008 with a B.A. in Philosophy and in 2012 with a B.Sc. in Economics, is an analyst at the Business Analytics Centre at Canada's Department of Justice.

He credits Trent's emphasis on multi-disciplinary studies with helping him bridge the gaps between law, stats, and computers, thereby facilitating the problem-solving abilities necessary in his job.

"I use my experience in multiple disciplines to break problems down into their different aspects," he explains. "I understand the law from courses I took in Philosophy, which helps me turn abstract issues into concrete problems. Then, using my knowledge in Mathematics and Computer Science, I can code these problems and develop equations for the computer to solve."

Mr. van der Werf, who also holds a Masters degree in Economics, is currently working on a business management project to help Justice Canada better understand the activities of all aspects of the department.

"We're looking at how many lawyers we have, where they are, what they are working on, and how long it takes to complete various types of files," he says. "It's very workforce oriented so having a background in Labour Economics helps, but the Philosophy of Law course I took at Trent also helps."

Mr. van der Werf also credits Trent's small class sizes, the opportunity to get to know his professors, and the quality of their teaching as contributing factors in his career success.

"The Economics program at Trent was astoundingly good with respect to rigour, mathematics, and problem-solving," he says. "It prepared me at a much higher level for the Masters program at Carleton than students from many other universities."

To this day, Mr. van der Werf says he still communicates regularly with his Trent professors, who he praises for helping him to develop his skills and to grow as a person. "They helped me to not only understand the courses I was taking, but more importantly what I was supposed to take away from the courses and carry with me going forward."

Suggesting that the experience that students gain at Trent is as worthwhile as their degrees, Mr. van der Werf adds: "Trent gives students an opportunity to discover what they are passionate about and that's important when it comes to getting a job and developing a career."

Posted on August 18, 2016