Callista Ottoni

Loneliness and social connection: mixed methods and video to explore older adults’ experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

I love learning. I love to ask questions and engage in thoughtful discussions with fellow students and professors. I am pursuing a graduate degree to cultivate knowledge and form relationships that will help me better address complex health and social issues. I recognize how privileged I am to be able to pursue a doctoral degree, and I am grateful for the opportunity every day.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

UBC has a strong track record of supporting innovative research and interdisciplinary collaboration. As I am conducting community-engaged, mixed methods research with older adults, I really wanted to work with Dr. Sims Gould as she offers a wealth of knowledge and experience in this area. Finally, studying at UBC allows me to be in close geographic proximity to my community partner.

What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?

The Interdisciplinary Studies program allows me to chart my own course to best achieve my academic goals. My committee is comprised of passionate and talented professors who have diverse backgrounds in the social sciences, health sciences, and arts-based, participatory methods and film. My program is ideal for self-directed learners. It really is a “choose your own adventure” program.

What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?

I am from Vancouver originally so I am well accustomed to biking year-round in the rain. However, the best surprise about returning to UBC, after spending time in the professional world, was meeting other students with whom I have formed new friendships. I value camaraderie, peer learning and support.

What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?

This is a tough question as all aspects of my life have prepared me for my graduate program in one way or another. Working as part of a research team prior to graduate school has definitely helped me have a firm grasp of the end-to-end research process. Living abroad from Canada and spending time outside of an academic setting has also been essential to listen and learn from people with diverse backgrounds. Finally, establishing a self-care practice that involves exercise, creative hobbies, and fun, serves as an important counterbalance to the pressures of school.

What do you see as your biggest challenge(s) in your future career?

I am really passionate about a career that involves knowledge mobilization. Knowledge mobilization means taking what we learn through research, and helping people understand and apply it in a policy, practice, and/or community settings. Historically in the Health Sciences it takes an average of 7 years for research to be applied in practice, if it’s applied at all. I want to reduce this time lag. I know this is a challenge, but it’s one that I am up for meeting head-on.

How do you feel your program is preparing you for those challenges?

The Interdisciplinary Studies program is preparing me for this challenge of effective knowledge mobilization as I have the space to look across disciplines for insights and solutions. I have also integrated an evaluation of community-engagement strategy as part of my doctoral research. These opportunities to learn will help me be a future leader in knowledge mobilization.

What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?

This is a tough question as I think all aspects of my life have prepared me for my graduate program in one way or another. I think it is beneficial to have time working as part of a research team, or in a professional setting, prior to grad school. It's also beneficial to have a self-care practice (like exercise or creative hobbies) as a counterbalance to school.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

You are never too old or too young to start graduate studies. As a parent of a young child, I also want to share that you can pursue an advanced degree while raising a family. It is challenging, and I would recommend establishing your support networks (like childcare) in advance, but being a mother helps me focus and prioritize what really matters. Motherhood is not a hindrance, it’s a superpower.


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