I am a firm believer that compassion can guide the world though insurmountable challenges.

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Student Profile: Jason Proulx

Social Psychology PhD student in the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences

April 23, 2021
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I often trace my love and curiosity for social psychology back to my Psyc-100 class at the University of British Columbia, where my professor opened my eyes to how much psychology can enrich people’s daily lives. This enthusiasm quickly developed into a passion for research as I gained a lot of fun, meaningful, hands-on research experience in the Social Cognition and Emotion Lab—which we aptly nicknamed the “Happy Lab.” My time at the Happy Lab inspired me to use psychology to help my community become kinder, happier, and more closely connected. After I finished my Honours degree at UBC, I partnered with Charitable Impact—a Vancouver-based public foundation—to examine the efficacy of their two community charity education programs in developing generosity and happiness in youth. I loved supporting the community in engaging in and reflecting on the meaning of charity in their lives. So much so that I was motivated to dig deeper into the scientific puzzle that is human generosity in graduate school. Over the course of my Master’s at SFU and now into the first year of my PhD as a Community-Engaged Research Graduate Fellow, I have used various research methods to examine how real-world interventions can be used to enrich and cultivate generous, happy, and interconnected communities. Beyond my research, I have been honoured to mentor budding undergraduate researchers through their Directed Studies and Honours programs, serve the psychology grad students as Secretary and Experimental Representative of the Psychology Graduate Student Caucus as well as co-coordinator of the Social Area Seminar series, and to partner with organizations to help them develop their community prosociality programs.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO COME TO SFU?

I chose to come to SFU for at least two reasons. Foremost, I was keen to work with my current supervisor, Dr. Lara Aknin, whose exceptional and well-recognized contributions to the science of generosity and happiness rival her equally inspiring and nurturing mentorship style. She truly embodies her research in her every action and often goes to remarkable lengths to help others flourish. The second reason I chose to come to SFU is because of the university's internationally recognized approach to community-engaged research. Researchers can often unwittingly do harm to communities through careless and colonizing forms of research; researchers can and should do better by their communities. I am so grateful to be a part of the Community-Engaged Research Initiative at SFU to develop my skills and approach as a community-engaged scholar.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR RESEARCH OR YOUR PROGRAM TO A FAMILY MEMBER?

My research centres on understanding how to leverage real-world interventions to help people--from the young to the Elderly--act generously, develop meaningful connections, and flourish in their community. I use a variety of methods--including large-scale experiments, surveys, focus groups, and interviews--and a community-engaged approach to help communities better understand and develop their own initiatives to cultivate kindness, happiness, and deep social connections in their community.

WHAT ARE YOU PARTICULARLY ENJOYING ABOUT YOUR STUDIES/RESEARCH AT SFU?

It has been an absolute pleasure to work with the compassionate and enthusiastic faculty, students, and staff at SFU. Research is truly a collaborative effort and I have been privileged to work with such a diverse group of exceptional, brilliant, dedicated, and caring individuals. I learn so much everyday from this community and I am just so grateful to not only be a part of it but to help such amazing undergraduates grow and develop a passion for psychology as I had.

HAVE YOU BEEN THE RECIPIENT OF ANY MAJOR OR DONOR-FUNDED AWARDS? IF SO, PLEASE TELL US WHICH ONES AND A LITTLE ABOUT HOW THE AWARDS HAVE IMPACTED YOUR STUDIES AND/OR RESEARCH.

I have been extremely fortunate to have been supported by several major and donor funded awards. For example, I have been the recipient of the Graduate Dean Entrance Scholarship at SFU ($84,000 CAD), the SSHRC Canada Graduate Scholarship - Master's ($17,500 CAD), the Community Engaged Research Initiative (CERi) Graduate Research Fellowship ($3000 CAD), and Arthur and Ancie Fouks Graduate Entrance Award in Public Service ($6,000 CAD). Words cannot express how grateful I have been to be selected for these awards and they have enabled me to truly make a difference for my community. For example, with my recent CERi fellowship, I have had the honour to re-connect a community of young students and Elderly care residents in Saskatoon, who had participated in a wonderful program called the Intergenerational Classroom or iGen. In iGen, a total of 25 Grade 6 students complete their entire curriculum alongside the long-term care residents of the Sherbrooke Community Centre in Saskatoon. This is an exceptional program that helps develop meaningful, multi-generational friendships. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they were unable to finish their year with one another or see each other because of strict shelter-in-pace orders. Fortunately, because of the CERi fellowship, I was able to arrange a set of virtual focus groups so that the young students and Elders could re-connect and reminisce on their experiences and the relationships that they formed during the program. It has been such a rewarding experience to facilitate these connections and to learn about the power of iGen from the community.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PROGRAM/POSTDOC POSITION TO SOMEONE STILL SEARCHING FOR A PROGRAM OR POSTDOC POSITION?

Being a part of the SFU social psychology program has been such a wonderfully rewarding experience. The tight-knit, supportive community has nourished my capacity to conduct research in a rigours, caring, critical and socially transformative ways. There are many opportunities to grow as a researcher, mentor, and to do a lot of good for the department and the larger community.

IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE?

I am a firm believer that compassion can guide the world though insurmountable challenges. I experienced this firsthand as the generosity of my community at SFU, UBC, and Charitable Impact profoundly shaped my growth. As a Vanier Scholar, I aim to emulate and share this compassion--to build a more generous society through my community-engaged research and daily life.

Contact Jason: jason_proulx@sfu.ca