Freshly Inspired: Memoir of a TLDG Research Assistant #MyMPHJourney
By Dr. Henrietta Ezebe
What did you learn as a TLDG project research assistant?
Being a research assistant (RA) for Dr. Paola Ardiles’ Teaching and Learning Development Grant project, Surrey CityLab: Using Academic-Community Partnerships to Advance Experiential Learning (https://www.sfu.ca/istld/faculty/grant-programs/projects/fhs/G0297.html), has truly been a major highlight of my graduate school experience. It provided me with an incredible array of skills and opportunities. Being entrusted with sensitive research material involving faculty and students was truly an honour. I learned not only how to work with people, but gained leadership experience through conferences and workshop participation. Furthermore, my writing ability, time management, critical-thinking, organizing, networking, and communication skills improved remarkably. In addition, Dr. Ardiles taught me the importance of building and maintaining positive relationships with the people I work with. This has proven to be a life skill.
Some of the tasks I was involved with included writing grant proposals, recruiting study participants, data collection, writing reports, and information dissemination. Additionally, having to manage the rigors of full-time graduate school with RA responsibilities taught me to effectively manage my time and resources, as well as prioritize my workload to meet deadlines. These developed skills are definitely unsurpassable to my future career, and I feel very honoured and privileged.
What did you find challenging?
Initially, creating a balance between my full-time graduate school workload and the responsibilities of being an RA proved to be arduous. I struggled in the beginning, especially because I was assisting in a research area that was fairly new to me. I had to read a lot of new literature, consult textbooks and websites, and ask a lot of questions. In no time, I became grounded in this new research field, learned to better prioritize my work, and eventually had a lot of fun combining my graduate school and RA responsibilities.
What did you find most valuable about your experience?
My most valuable part of this experience has been the opportunity to become a published author! I feel incredibly lucky! I also had the chance to present our project’s findings to faculty members at SFU’s 17th Symposium on Teaching and Learning: Assessing and Celebrating Teaching and Student Learning; the experience was humbling. Additionally, I am very thankful for being able to pay some of my tuition and living expenses through my RA income.
What was it like presenting at your first conference?
Presenting at the 23rd International Union of Health Promotion and Education 2019 World Conference in Rotorua, New Zealand was surreal and a once in a lifetime opportunity. Receiving funding from the TLDG grant project to attend this prestigious conference enabled me to present some of the findings of our research to a global audience. It was a very rewarding and fulfilling experience for me.
What was it like submitting your first academic paper?
Some of my tasks as an RA included writing abstracts submitted to conferences and journals. All but one of the multiple abstracts we submitted was accepted! This catapulted my confidence and belief in my academic capabilities, encouraging me to submit an abstract from my final MPH Capstone project to the 23rd STI and HIV World Congress to be held in Vancouver in July 2019, and it got accepted!!!
How was the experience of conducting research outside of your own discipline?
Honestly, it was tasking at first. It entailed a lot of work to become familiarized with an entirely new field, but the gains were numerous and totally worth the time and effort. I personally have been freshly inspired and have found a new passion in social innovation and entrepreneurship through this research assistantship!