Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

Association of Psychologists of Nova Scotia honour StFX’s Jessie Doyle for outstanding undergraduate achievement

May 21st, 2019
Jessie Doyle

Jessie Doyle has much to celebrate. Not only did the Antigonish, NS native graduate from StFX in May with a first-class honours degree in psychology with a concentration in forensic psychology, she’s been recognized too across the province for excellence in undergraduate achievement in psychology.  

The Association of Psychologists of Nova Scotia (APNS) has selected Ms. Doyle as this year’s recipient of the APNS Gerald Gordon Memorial Prize for Outstanding Undergraduate Achievement in Psychology. 

“The committee agreed that Ms. Doyle exemplifies characteristics that render her a promising future psychologist and excellent psychology student,” APNS executive director Susan Marsh wrote in announcing the winner of the award, which recognizes excellence at the undergraduate level.

“The Gerald Gordon Prize recognizes an undergraduate student who has demonstrated outstanding academic achievement, clear aptitude for scientific research, leadership in student psychology affairs, and personal and professional qualities befitting an aspiring psychologist,” says StFX psychology professor Dr. Margo Watt, Ms. Doyle’s supervisor.

“Jessie excels in all of these domains,” she says.

“For her honours thesis, she undertook a very ambitious project befitting a masters level thesis. At the same time, as part of one of her Forensic Psychology practicum, she collated and analyzed data for a health clinic in Dartmouth designed to treat borderline personality disorder. She will be presenting findings from all of these projects at the annual convention of the Canadian Psychological Association in Halifax at the end of this month. Jessie will be starting graduate studies in clinical psychology at UNB this fall and I know that UNB are looking forward to having her join their program. Clearly, Jessie is a very bright student, but it is her diligence and determination and dedication to the field that make her such a worthy candidate of this award,” Dr. Watt says.

Ms. Doyle, who has received a $17,500 master’s level award from the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada (SSHRC) and will start the MA/PhD program in clinical psychology at UNB in September, admits she cried a little on her hearing news of the award.

“Being recognized by such an esteemed board of psychologists for work I am doing and hope to continue to do, is one of the more meaningful accomplishments for me—the people I aspire to be one day recognizing my achievement, it’s truly an honour. I was overwhelmed by emotion,” she says.

Ms. Doyle has certainly enjoyed a stellar academic career.

She’s been on the Dean’s List since her first year at StFX, ranked third overall in the BA program in her third year, and maintained a 90 per cent average since her third year. This past year, she received a prestigious $6,250 Irving Research Mentorship Award, offered through StFX’s Frank McKenna Centre for Leadership, and spent the summer involved in original research. Along with her SSHRC master’s grant, UNB will top up the award by an additional $10,000.

Ms. Doyle has also successfully received funding to attend and to present her research work at several conferences, and is a co-author on a manuscript submitted for publication to the journal, Personality and Individual Differences with StFX faculty Dr. Watt and Dr. Kim MacLean, and two graduate students.

She’s authored and presented lectures on her research to Psychology 100 students at StFX, has served as president of the StFX Psychology Society and is a StFX student affiliate and member of the Clinical Section of the Canadian Psychological Association.

She’s received the Gold Prize for best research poster presentation at StFX’s Student Research Day 2019, for her work, entitled “The Role of Anxiety Sensitivity and Influence of Anxious Attachment on Borderline Personality Disorder.” She’s been a research assistant to psychology professors Dr. Erika Koch and Dr. Tara Callaghan, and a teaching assistant to Dr. Christine Lomore, Dr. Ted Wright, and Dr. Jesse Husk. She has been employed by the Tramble Centre for Accessible Learning at StFX since 2017 by providing course notes and tutoring services.

Ms. Doyle has also developed a research project for the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), which comprised of compiling a bank of evidence-based psychometric measures to complement Mental Health Needs scale used by CSC with offenders. She is trained too to assess risk for suicidality/self-injurious behaviour with the Correctional Service of Canada, is certified by St. John Ambulance as an emergency first medical responder and is certified in Mental Health First Aid. She’s also received training in Bystander Sexual Assault Diversion Training & Supporting Survivors of Sexual Violence Program Certificate; observed proceedings at several diversion courts including: Mental Health Court (Dartmouth, NS), Wellness Court (Port Hawkesbury, NS), and Gladue Court (Wagmatcook M'ikmaq Reserve); and has received skills training  through workshops in cognitive behavioural therapy; dialectical behavioural therapy; mindfulness; and mental preparation training. She has spoken at numerous mental health advocacy initiatives and events. 

As for her time at StFX?

“I don’t think I could have had a better experience,” she says, noting how fantastic the psychology department is, including the supportive and engaged faculty. “They are so professional and so wise and care so deeply about the success of their students, and invest in their students, even when the student isn’t so invested in themselves yet.”

She says her training, particularly by her thesis supervisor Dr. Watt, prepared her well for graduate school. Dr. Watt, she says, has taught her so much, from how to write a CV to broadening the depths of her thoughts.

Ms. Doyle says she is also happy to share this honour with Dr. Watt, who also won the Gerald Gordon Prize during her undergraduate degree at StFX.  

This research is, in part, made possible by the Government of Canada Research Support Fund.

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