The long-term goal of my program of research is to improve the supports provided to youth who are transitioning out of foster care into independent living. In particular, my PhD thesis is a mixed methods study aimed at understanding the role of mental health in the transition into adulthood among youth who have been in foster care.
The long-term goal of my program of research is to improve the supports provided to youth who are transitioning out of foster care into independent living. In particular, my PhD thesis is a mixed methods study aimed at understanding the role of mental health in the transition into adulthood among youth who have been in foster care. The first stage of my study aims to quantify the extent to which mental illnesses account for the increased risk of adverse outcomes in this population (e.g.: high school incompletion, criminal justice involvement). For this analysis, I will use population-based administrative data that include indicators for the entire population of Manitoba. The second stage aims to explore the complex relationship between the foster care experience, mental health disorders, and the transition into adulthood, and how to improve the mental health supports provided during this transition. To achieve this, I will conduct focus groups and interviews with youth living in Vancouver who have a diagnosed mental illness and have been in foster care. I will implement this stage in partnership with the Inner City Youth Program through an Integrated Knowledge Translation approach.
What does being a Public Scholar mean to you?
To me, being a public scholar means committing to do research that aims to improve people’s lives, particularly of the most vulnerable members of our society. I believe this can be done by conducting research that is grounded in the public need for evidence-based policy, that is designed and implemented in dialogue with stakeholders, and that is shared with wider audiences through means that reach beyond the traditional forms of knowledge dissemination.
In what ways do you think the PhD experience can be re-imagined with the Public Scholars Initiative?
We live in a time when there is growing distrust among the public from the academic community, when even the most basic scientific facts are being questioned. I think one way to bridge this gap is by helping PhD programs evolve and adapt to what society is expecting from academia. The support provided by the Public Scholars Initiative is allowing young researchers to push the boundaries of what we have been traditionally expected to achieve with our PhD theses. Beyond conducting rigorous research and generating novel scholarly knowledge, we are being encouraged to broaden the scope and reach of our research and to attempt to answer questions that are relevant to the public good. Further, the Public Scholars Initiative is helping us have novel products of our scholarly work validated as part of our academic training.
How do you envision connecting your PhD work with broader career possibilities?
While I want to pursue a career in academia, I think it is fundamental that I develop my program of research in partnership with public institutions, such as government agencies and community-based organizations. I hope that my knowledge translation efforts will allow me to develop skills to work with these institutions and to connect with those that may be interested in my work.
How does your research engage with the larger community and social partners?
Thanks to the support provided by the Public Scholars Initiative, I will be able to incorporate an Integrated Knowledge Translation approach into the qualitative stage of my project. This means that, instead of conducting a researcher-led study, Inner City Youth Program stakeholders will be involved in the planning of all steps of the qualitative stage. I will also work to disseminate the findings of my thesis in ways that maximize their impact. I will conduct summary briefings with program stakeholders and I will produce a plain-language summary report that will inform the implementation of services and programming for youth who have a history of foster care. I will also produce a policy brief that will synthesize the findings from both stages of my thesis. To disseminate this brief, I plan to leverage my relationship with the program’s leadership and UBC’s existing partnerships with community organizations and with provincial ministries and agencies.
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?
I decided to complete a graduate degree because I want to pursue a career as an independent researcher and conduct rigorous, impactful research that both contributes to science and improves the lives of some of the most vulnerable members of our society. I began my research career by working as a research assistant and manager for several years. In order to build on my research experience, I enrolled in the Master of Science in Population and Public Health at UBC. As I completed the coursework and developed a thesis project focused on the mental health of vulnerable youth, I became convinced that I wanted to become an independent researcher; with this goal in mind, I transferred to the PhD program at the beginning of my second year at UBC.
Why did you choose to come to British Columbia and study at UBC?
I decided to study at UBC because it is one of the top Universities in North America. I particularly value its vibrant research community and the support provided through first-class facilities and varied resources. Specifically, I chose the PhD at the School of Population and Public Health because it is both a rigorous and flexible program, which is allowing me to develop the skills needed to become a successful independent researcher. Further, the students and researchers working at the school come from diverse backgrounds and are working on a wide variety of projects; this has enrichened my experience as a graduate student and has broadened my academic career prospects.
Being a public scholar means committing to do research that aims to improve people’s lives, particularly of the most vulnerable members of our society.