Sonja Saqui

Supporting the emotional well-being of students with Intellectual Disability in the classroom
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

Throughout my career and academic pursuits, I have always known that I wanted to support students within school settings. As a classroom-based teacher I was regularly drawn to supporting students who struggle, academically, socially or emotionally. This led me to pursue further course work, including a graduate certificate in educating children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and ultimately led to my decision to pursue graduate studies in School Psychology at UBC.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

UBC is a world-renowned university and consistently highly ranked as a premier learning institution. UBC attracts high-caliber researchers, faculty, and students. As such I knew I would be surrounding myself in an optimal learning environment within a collaborative context. I knew that graduate studies at UBC would help to enable me in reaching my future career goals.

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

I was drawn to the School Psychology program at UBC for a number of reasons. Firstly, UBC offers a comprehensive program in School Psychology that promotes both strong theoretical foundations and research skills enabling me to become a strong researcher and knowledgeable and conscientious practitioner. Secondly, my research supervisor, Dr. Sterett Mercer, has extensive research expertise in the development and evaluation of interventions in school-age populations, which aligns well with my research interests. Thirdly, the program in School Psychology has strong affiliations with multiple community agencies, school districts and professionals who collaboratively strengthen the program and our clinical practice through partnerships, practica and internship opportunities.

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

I was surprised by the number of great coffee shops on campus!

UBC is a world-renowned university and consistently highly ranked as a premier learning institution. I knew I would be surrounding myself in an optimal learning environment within a collaborative context. Also, that graduate studies at UBC would enable me to reach my future career goals.
What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?

I love the ability to work in various settings in the community which is promoted in our program through internship and practica. I also love the opportunities to collaborate with students and faculty in the School Psychology program and those with overlapping interests in other departments and faculties.

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

A challenge with school psychology is to not only to identify best practices in education but to also have the skills necessary to support teachers and schools in accessing this knowledge in meaningful ways. The challenge of reducing educational disparities and promoting engaging, productive and rigorous classrooms will become my life’s work.

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

Through the rigorous and comprehensive School Psychology program offered through UBC, I am developing the theoretical background, experiences and skills to mobilize my research and knowledge in accessible and meaningful ways.

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

While my academic experiences and research opportunities certainly contributed to my preparation for graduate studies, it was my experiences as a teacher abroad that most significantly prepared me for graduate school. I learnt time management, communication skills and flexibility. Additionally, having a family and having expectations on my time that were often (and continue to be) out of my control prepared me to use every window of time effectively and to appreciate the time I do have to spend with family and loved ones.

What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?

I like to be with my family and play with my kids. Going for hikes in the forest is another activity of choice for sure.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

A few key pieces of advice that I have been given along the way that I feel are worthy of passing on are as follows: (1) graduate studies are a marathon not a sprint and as long as you keep putting one foot in front of the other chances are you will get to the finish line, (2) if a task seems unsurmountable break it down into smaller more manageable pieces, and (3) take breaks and practice self-care.


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