Camilla Enns on the Impact of Early Intervention Programs on the Social-Emotional Development of Educationally Disadvantaged Children

December 10, 2020

Bio: Camilla Enns is a Master’s student in the Counselling Psychology program in the Faculty of Education at SFU. She has recently received a graduate scholarship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). With the support of this scholarship, her research will focus on the Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) program, an early intervention program that supports vulnerable and socially isolated mothers with young children. Upon graduating, Camilla would like to work as a counsellor for children and youth.

Congratulations on winning the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) award under the Canada Graduate Scholarship for Master’s program. How do you feel about winning such a prestigious award?

Thank you! It might be my biggest accomplishment so far. It feels validating that others are interested in this research project and I feel motivated to do the research well. It also eases financial concerns. Overall, I feel grateful.

Please tell us something about yourself such as your academic background, hobbies, interests, etc.

I completed my undergraduate degree at UBC (University of British Columbia) Okanagan with a double major in geography and psychology. My reason for doing a double major was actually because I recognized that psychology was a better fit for me after completing four years in geography. However, my geography background has become a surprisingly valuable asset because I was able to learn about topics like immigration and social inequality, which are now relevant to my thesis research.

Regarding psychology, I am particularly interested in social-emotional development, trauma, and parent-child relationships. I became passionate about these topics due to my employment experience as a Research Assistant in the Faculty of Education throughout my undergrad, and later as a Child and Youth Care Worker in residential care homes. I am now completing a Master of Arts in the Counselling Psychology program, and plan to continue working with children and youth in the future.

Outside of school I love yoga, hiking, slacklining, and essentially doing anything outside.

What are the implications of your research and who will benefit from this?

My research will focus on the Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) program, an early intervention program that supports vulnerable and socially isolated mothers with young children. One of HIPPY’s primary aims is to help mothers prepare their children for school, in efforts to close the gap in school readiness between educationally advantaged and disadvantaged students. This is done by building the foundation for important academic skills such as reading and math.

For my research I would like to explore the impacts of HIPPY on social-emotional development in children. This is because I believe that social-emotional skills (such as listening, sharing, and emotion regulation) are fundamental to all learning, and I think it would be useful to understand if and how HIPPY encourages this development. I suspect that HIPPY does promote social-emotional skill development through their program format which includes frequent parent-child interaction and play, but this has not yet been focused on in existing research. The purpose of this project is to further our understanding on how this program can best support Canada’s diverse families to ensure inclusive growth of all children.

Can you tell us how you prepared your SSHRC proposal?

When I began my Master’s program, I was relatively open in choosing a topic for my thesis. I had not heard of HIPPY before, but in my first meeting with my supervisor, Dr. Lucy LeMare, she told me about her previous work with the program. After learning more about it and seeing how it fit with my research interests, I talked with her about doing my thesis on HIPPY and together we brainstormed a research idea for my proposal. Though only one page, the research proposal was the most time-consuming aspect of my SSHRC application. I spent a lot of time reviewing the existing literature on the HIPPY program and school readiness to construct my proposal. I then asked my supervisor to look it over well in advance, so I had enough time to make revisions before the deadline. Dr. LeMare was incredibly helpful and encouraging during this process.

What suggestions would you like to give to students interested in applying for SSHRC fellowships?

First, I would suggest that you do apply! I would also recommend starting early because my application took longer than expected to complete. This includes gathering your transcripts early on (especially if you have studied abroad since these transcripts usually take longer to arrive), and keeping an up-to-date CV so you can easily transfer this information into the CV format that is required. I would then recommend scheduling a meeting with your supervisor to discuss your ideas, so they can help guide you in the right direction because they likely have a wealth of knowledge about your field of interest. Finally, I would suggest you have at least three contacts who are ready and willing to provide you with reference letters and ensure that they will submit their reference for you on time.  

Thank you very much Camilla. We wish you all the best for your future endeavors.