Program/Degree: Educational Psychology PhD
I was an average student for most of my K-12 education, and agonized through high school feeling apathetic and uninterested. Upon entering university, I took an Introduction to Psychology class that sparked my love for learning. I love studying Psychology because it allows me to apply what I learn towards understanding myself, the people in my life, and human behavior in general, which continues to fascinate me. I always wondered how children develop social skills – some of which are not explicitly taught. I became interested in autism, a disorder characterized in part by difficulties in this domain. My research explores the complex relationships between emotion recognition (how people with autism understand emotions in others), alexithymia (difficulties understand emotions in oneself), and nonverbal emotional expression (e.g., facial expressions) in children and adults with autism. I decided to pursue advanced degrees in Educational Psychology because I wanted to study in a heavily research-focused program, but with opportunities to conduct practical research in educational and other applied settings.
Please tell us how you first discovered your program.
I worked with an Educational Psychologist at Washington State University for a short period of time that completed his degrees at SFU and he recommended that I look into this program.
Please tell us why you chose the Faculty of Education at SFU for your studies.
After living most of my life in rural towns in Idaho and California I was excited about the prospect of living in Vancouver. I got in touch with an Educational Psychology professor at SFU whose research I found especially interesting (Dr. Elina Birmingham) to discuss the possibility of working in her research lab under her supervision. It all worked out, and here I am!
Who is a faculty member you have enjoyed working with and why?
I have worked closely with my supervisor, Dr. Birmingham, since coming to SFU. Her main research interests are in social attention, and how people with and without autism orient their attention towards and perceive social and non-social information in their environment. She has been an invaluable colleague and mentor for me, providing helpful guidance and honest criticism on my work, while also allowing me the freedom to pursue the crazy research endeavors I dream up.
What inspires you to learn and continue your education?
Once I fell in love with Psychology, I couldn’t have imagined a career path that didn’t involve life-long learning and intellectual stimulation. I’m passionate about research, and my goal is to become a professor at a university after I complete my degree.
What would you say to prospective students who are considering graduate school in the Faculty of Education?
In my experience in SFU’s Faculty of Education, I have found there to be an unprecedented amount of opportunities and resources available to us as graduate students. Between research and teaching assistantships, grants for conference travel, scholarships, funding for special student projects, and opportunities to participate in professional development and community service activities, I have been able to live in Vancouver comfortably and use my time wisely towards initiatives that I believe are benefiting my career goals. And with such a large and diverse faculty, you’ll have opportunities to network and form relationships with a multitude of wonderful faculty, students and staff to fully explore your research and professional interests.
Is there anything else you wish to share?
“Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought.” – Matsuo Basho