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Student story on mental health and physical activity a finalist for national award

Author: Jeremy Elder-Jubelin

Posted on Apr 12, 2024

Category: UNB Fredericton

Taylor McAulay

A University of New Brunswick (UNB) student is a finalist in this year’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Storytellers contest. But, beyond winning one of the top five spots, she hopes her video will help inspire and educate people near and far.

Growing up, Taylor McAulay learned a lot as a student athlete. She learned how to play sports; learned about the importance of sport in her life; and even learned about UNB from her visits to Fredericton for games and tournaments.

It wasn’t until she came to UNB as a university student, however, that she would start learning about psychology, a field of study that has captured her attention since.

“I started university without having much knowledge of the field, and I remember being amazed to learn how broad psychology is. I had amazing professors, learned so much and thoroughly enjoyed it, and I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in psychology. Now, I’m lucky enough to be continuing my education as a PhD student in clinical psychology at UNB!”

As she continues diving deeper into the subject, Taylor also wants to share some of what she’s learned with as many people as possible. Her graduate research focuses on the intersection of two topics she’s passionate about: mental health and the value of sports participation. Starting from an exploration of how and why an active lifestyle can improve mental health and well-being, she decided to look more closely at adolescent participation in sports.

“I was shocked to learn that one in three adolescents drop out of sport every year and that those entering and exiting high school are most at-risk.

“We know that adolescence is a big developmental transition period that is often associated with stressors, but we also know that sport participation during these years can bring many psychosocial benefits. As such, I thought it was important to understand why Canadian adolescents are dropping out of sport at such high rates and what risk factors might be contributing.”

While Taylor is currently refining her research plan and working towards ethics approval, when the opportunity to share some of her existing knowledge came up, she jumped at the chance.

The SSHRC Storytellers Challenge “asks postsecondary students to show Canadians, in up to three minutes or 300 words, how social sciences and humanities research is affecting our lives, our world and our future for the better.”

For Taylor, the process of making a video - something she’d never done before - was a challenge, though an enjoyable one. She started by scripting what she wanted to share with people, with a goal of making it engaging and accessible, before turning to online design tools to put together the final product.

Why put in the effort to learn a brand-new set of skills?

While the contest was certainly a motivating factor, Taylor also sees these skills as important for her future, and for researchers generally. Making research accessible to as many people as possible, and to the right people to change lives, requires learning different ways of sharing knowledge.

“I think it’s important for graduate students to communicate research in a way that is accessible to the public.

“With my project, in particular, I want the results of this study to be useful in understanding and promoting sport participation within our own communities. I would like this research to be informative for coaches, educators and policy makers so that it can contribute to the development of initiatives and funding programs to protect those athletes most at risk for dropping out.”

2024 SSHRC Storytellers finalists
The final five winners will be announced on May 6, 2024.