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From PhD to Life

Transition update: Daniel Munro, director of policy projects

Self-described as intellectually restless, Daniel has pivoted his career to focus on innovation policy.


Daniel Munro (PhD, political science) contributed to the Transition Q & A series in April 2014. Read his interview here. He was then principal research associate at the Conference Board of Canada. Dr. Munro will soon be a visiting scholar in innovation studies and director of policy projects at the Innovation Policy Lab in the Munk School for Global Affairs at the University of Toronto. Follow him @dk_munro.

Lots of things have happened since my original interview was published three years ago. After trying two new and interesting challenges at the Conference Board, I decided I needed a different environment and new perspectives on the issues that matter to me. Beginning July 1, I’ll be a visiting scholar in innovation studies and director of policy projects at the Innovation Policy Lab in the Munk School for Global Affairs at the University of Toronto. I’ll work alongside some incredibly bright people thinking and writing about innovation policy, inclusive growth, social innovation and other issues. In addition to organizing some panels and speaking events, I hope to make some headway on a book project (and maybe a documentary) on the ethics of innovation.

Being intellectually restless, I also have other things on my plate. About a year ago, Ottawa broadcaster and author Mark Sutcliffe asked me if I’d like to do a regular segment on his radio show, Ottawa Today, that we now call “The Ethics Lab.” It draws on my experience teaching ethics at the University of Ottawa and has become one of the highlights of my week. The show, in turn, has led to a weekly Ethics Lab column for Maclean’s magazine. As I said in my original transition interview, I aim to contribute something valuable to public discourse and I’m open to doing so in different ways — including writing, speaking and teaching inside and outside the academy. I’ve been very lucky to have been offered these exciting ways to contribute over the past year.

My latest career changes have revealed again how supportive and generous people can be when you talk to them about your aspirations and ask for advice. I get many requests from PhD students and recent graduates to talk about my experience and to offer advice that might help with their careers. It’s a responsibility I take seriously. Admittedly, I can’t seem to find the time to speak with everyone, but I try. In any case, I continue to recommend the same things to PhDs in transition: Try different things. Talk to people. And don’t get hung up on academia being the only, or even the best, way to use your skills and knowledge. Even in dark times — especially in dark times — we need people who can think critically and creatively about our collective future. Your PhD prepares you to do exactly that.

Jennifer Polk
Jennifer Polk is a career coach and entrepreneur. She earned her PhD in history from the University of Toronto in 2012. For more information and resources, check out her website:
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  1. Reinhart Reithmeier / November 11, 2017 at 18:18

    Dan did some amazing work on PhD careers while at the Conference Board of Canada including an insightful report on “Inside and Outside the Academy: Valuing and Preparing PhDs for Careers”.

  2. Antonina / July 1, 2019 at 06:52

    Can’t wait to enroll for my PhD. I am encouraged.

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