Below is my MA School and Clinical Child Psychology and Social Justice Education programs statement of intent. This was a tricky application because I had to try to appeal to two programs using the same space as applying to one. I was recently also told that I could have done two separate applications (requiring you to pay twice) but this would allow you to have two dedicated applications (and more space to write about why they should accept you). However, I was also told that departments can still see which program you applied to first and will know what your second choice is... so do with that information what you will. I managed with two vastly different programs in one application. Remember, I don't have all the answers... and secretly just want to spread all the rumors that also gave me anxiety. In many ways, applying to grad school is a lottery. May the odds be ever in your favor.
Statement of Intent
Growing up in Wikwemikong Unceded Reserve, I never thought I would see the day when I would apply to graduate school. My interest in psychology and education began when I entered grade nine and had to move off the reserve to attend high school in an urban area. Until then, I did not perceive myself as a minority or as having any barriers. The image I had of myself shattered as soon as I realized that my high school had a room designated for indigenous students who needed to seek refuge and find a sense of belonging. At that moment, my interest in Psychology, specifically our perceptions of the world and ourselves, our emotions and behaviors became evident. This also brought forward my realization of the interwoven dynamics of identity, education, and institution.
My purpose in entering graduate studies is to examine the alarming rates of Indigenous youth suicide, and hopefully provide intervention for depression, substance abuse and addiction found on reserves across the country. I have become aware of colonial histories, and how their re-telling is an important step towards reconciliation and healing because of my research experience. However, I am not naïve to the reality that these are complex problems with deep historical implications and considerations. My academic experience to date has prepared me to take up some of these issues in the following ways.
It is through research and my investment in the university as a place where the production of knowledge is possible, that I have been able to explore the power of empirical research, the application of theory and all of the benefits associated with producing good, rigorous academic work. Through my training in various methodologies, including quantitative and historical approaches, I have come to value interdisciplinary research that allows for the priority of experiences and voices of marginalized people, including and especially Indigenous Peoples. I am hopeful that my research experience will appeal to both School and Clinical Child Psychology (SCCP) and Social Justice Education (SJE).
If I were to be accepted to SCCP, I would pursue my interest in better understanding the disproportionate rates of Indigenous youth suicide and prevalence of depression in our communities. I would like to combine this inquiry with an investigation on the characteristics of youth resiliency and family dynamics. The strength of ‘community’ is very important to First Nations people and it is my understanding that individual healing must also be viewed at the level of community healing. Having spent more than half of my life living on a First Nations reserve, as well as working for the Wikwemikong Health Centre, I can attest to the dire need for study in these areas. I also believe in the importance of acknowledging intergenerational trauma as a contributor and framework for which I can analyze these issues.
Recognizing that there are many causes of youth suicide and explanations for the prevalence of depression, I am open to working with several different faculty. First, Dr. Hamza’s work in the prevention and analysis of self-injury and interest in identifying risk factors makes her one of my choices for a proposed supervisor. Secondly, the opportunity to work with Dr. Peterson-Badali, whose investment and research with justice-involved youth, specifically
Indigenous youth, would be of great value. I think her considerations and acknowledgment of the lack of research surrounding the role of colonization-informed factors in the offending behaviour of Indigenous youth are important. Lastly, the privilege to work with Dr. Scott would be of great interest because of her large-scale focus on the prevention and treatment of violence in intimate and family relationships. More specifically, the work she does with abusive fathers and men is also directly applicable to my research interests.
Having had the opportunity to be a research assistant for Dr. Nancy Young with the Aboriginal Children’s Health and Well-being Measure (ACHWM,) I have come to realize the power of community-oriented research. The feeling of being ‘forgotten’ completely dissipates when I get to be involved in a project that gives Indigenous children and youth a voice regarding their health. In my experience working with Dr. Young, I have learned that partnerships between a University and a First Nations Community can be respectful and meaningful. As a youth, I took part in the ACHWM as a research participant during the phase where they were formulating the questions for the survey. Being a part of the project again, but now as a research assistant, I have seen it come full circle. I can now attest to the ACHWM having made real-time change in the lives of the youth who, as a result of taking the survey, are now connected with Mental Health Workers. It is to be noted that while I first gained my employment with Dr. Young as a part-time student beginning in the Fall of 2016, she also asked me to join the ACHWM team as a full-time research assistant this past summer. See www.ACHWM.ca for more information.
My undergraduate degree is in Psychology, and while I remain very interested in this field, I also believe I would be an excellent candidate for masters in SJE because of my background in Women's Studies at Laurentian University. Throughout my undergraduate pursuits, I have completed courses like: Feminist Theories, Sexing the Nation, Violence Against Women, and The Production of Knowledge. Each of these courses have given me a foundation of knowledge to draw on in terms of feminist theory and analysis, as well as grounded me within the critical realm of intersectionality, and utilizing history as momentum for activism. Most of all, the course in ‘Native People and Education’ has shown me the faults in our education system, faults that I have subjectively experienced and can finally define.
If I were to be accepted into Social Justice Education, I would very much like to work with Dr. Tuck because of her area of expertise in education and policy, especially that pertaining to youth and Indigenous People. Her critiques of settler colonialism are pertinent to my interests. In my MA thesis, I would propose an analysis on the lack of accurate Indigenous history in textbooks common to Ontario. Specifically, I would provide a qualitative analysis with Indigenous youth and their self-perceptions to then identify any disconnection between them and the Ontario curriculum. In connection with my aforementioned purpose for entering graduate studies, I am hopeful that the re-telling of colonial histories could not only open the eyes of the general population, but also aid in the development of resiliency in Indigenous youth.
Additional experience that I could bring as an applicant to the SJE program, would be the unique opportunity I had working as a research assistant at McMaster University in the summer of 2016. I was one of twenty-two applicants from all across Canada that were accepted to the Indigenous Undergraduate Summer Research Scholars Program (IUSRS). The program is available to undergraduate students belonging to Indigenous communities who are interested in academic research and graduate school. I lived on campus at McMaster for the duration of the two-month program, and was matched with Dr. Karen Balcom. Working under her supervision, I contributed to her Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) funded research project (publication pending). I analyzed ‘identifying data’ from primary documents and summarized important points, coding them into a database using referencing software. The coding work I completed will allow Dr. Balcom to see the emergence of larger narrative themes across a sizeable set of data. The IUSRS program not only gave me first-hand experience with research methods used by an established historian, but also provided me with the opportunity to work with multiple Indigenous scholars and gain experience in Indigenous methodologies.
I have chosen the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education because of it's commitment to Indigenous education and prioritization of Indigenous values and knowledge. In relation to SJE, their focus as a department to “challenge barriers of systemic discrimination in education” is incredibly inspiring to me as a First Nations student. Working with Indigenous children and youth would be my highest priority of clientele. As such, I feel it is crucial to address their behaviours and needs in the larger context of the school, family, social and cultural environments. I am highly invested in the SCCP program because they inherently embody this approach. I am hopeful that this statement has demonstrated the persistence of my academic curiosity. With my journey at Laurentian University coming to an end, I am excited and motivated to see what my next steps will be.