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Canadian champs

Psychology students take top honours in evaluation competition

Student Life

By Kelly Foss

The second time was the charm for a team of psychology graduate students vying for the national title in the Canadian Evaluation Society (CES) Student Evaluation Case Competition finals recently.

Olivia Cleary, Laura Fallon, Sandra Parsons and Marshal Rodrigues, along with last minute addition Lauren Matthews, are all masters of applied psychological science (MAPS) students. They took top honours at the society’s annual conference, this year in St. John’s in early June, beating out two other teams from the University of Guelph and the University of Saskatchewan.

First win

It was the second year in a row that Ms. Cleary and Ms. Parsons made the finals in the competition, and the seventh time overall that Memorial students had gotten that far, but it was Memorial’s first win.

“Unfortunately (another teammate), Zak Keeping, wasn’t able to compete in the final round due to a scheduling conflict,” said Ms. Parsons. “We had to change our team lineup, and Lauren took his place.”

The competition began with the team receiving a request for a proposal to evaluate support events hosted by Young Adult Cancer Canada. They then had five hours to come up with a plan for conducting the evaluation before presenting it to a panel of judges and an audience made up of conference delegates and then field questions.

“The judges were particularly impressed with our logic model and the attention we paid to anticipated challenges and mitigation strategies.” –Sandra Parsons

“We felt fairly confident about the quality of our presentation, and our responses to the judges’ questions,” said Ms. Parsons. “After the other teams had presented, all teams joined the judges in a room to receive some verbal feedback.

“The judges were particularly impressed with our logic model and the attention we paid to anticipated challenges and mitigation strategies,” she added. “After hearing our feedback and that of the other two teams, we did not expect that we would be the winning team. We really had no hunch about who the winner would be.”

‘Stellar future evaluators’

In addition to bragging rights for the winning team, all competitors received travel and hotel expenses, conference registration fees, a gift of a local piece of artwork, a certificate of achievement and a book written by Gail Barrington, a conference attendee and leader in the Canadian evaluation community.

“Many conference participants said that they likely would have not have travelled to Newfoundland and Labrador had it not been for this conference,” said Ms. Rodrigues. “I was so proud to be a part of a team with such stellar future evaluators. We were able to prove the strength of Newfoundland and Labrador’s program evaluation community and shine a light on the fabulous work that is being done by the Canadian Evaluation Society-Newfoundland and Labrador chapter. And winning the competition on home turf was even more exciting! It certainly helped to create a buzz around the conference.”

“We shall be using them as exemplars of the best in our applied psychological science graduate program for some time to come.” –Dr. Cathryn Button

Dr. Cathryn Button, a psychology professor and chair of the applied psychological science graduate program, praised the team on their outstanding achievement.

“With 20 universities competing in the first round, the competition was very high,” she said. “We know how much expertise, extra work and time commitments these competitions take, and they are to be applauded for taking this on. They should be extraordinarily proud of their accomplishment, as are all of us in the program. It’s quite something to be the best in the country! We shall be using them as exemplars of the best in our applied psychological science graduate program for some time to come.”


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