Convocation Spotlight: Jessica Haight

Undergraduate course inspired graduate’s work to meet mental health needs in schools.

21 November 2023

Public health is a profession that often attracts people with backgrounds in health or sciences. Jessica Haight, however, was inspired to pursue a masters in public health because of a course she took while studying psychology in a bachelor of arts program.

Today Jessica Haight will cross the stage to receive her Master of Science (MSc) in Health Promotion and Socio-behavioural Sciences degree and graduate embedded certificate in Community-Based Research and Evaluation.

Before convocation day, Jessica spoke to us about her motivation for becoming a public health professional and how her BA in psychology prepared her to achieve success in the program. 

What initially drew you to this area of study?

I joined the Master of Public Health (MPH) program because of my interest in health system improvement, including how to make health services accessible and effective for the communities they are serving. 

Your undergraduate degree is in arts. What led you to study for a career in public health?  

I became interested in public health after taking a health psychology course at McGill University during my undergraduate program in psychology. That course inspired me to think about how the social determinants of healthpersonal, social, economic and environmental factors that determine individual and population health — contribute to our health and well-being and how we can act on these determinants to make community programs and policies more accessible and effective in fostering positive outcomes. 

My master's research explored the role of a school-based mental health intervention in fostering children and youth's mental health. I was able to combine my background in psychology with the knowledge I gained in the field of public health to identify and respond to the mental health needs of school communities. 

What achievement, accomplishment or moment are you most proud of from your time in the program?

I am most proud of defending my master’s thesis, Children and Youth Mental Health: The Role of a Collaborative, School-Based Wraparound Support Intervention in Fostering Mental Health, and being nominated for the Dean’s Gold Medal Award on the basis of an excellent defence and academic performance.

How did you stay motivated and who helped you keep going when things got tough?

The passion I have for my research continued to motivate me throughout my program, as well as the supportive environment fostered by my lab and colleagues.

What advice would you give to a student thinking of entering this program of study/specialization?

I would encourage new students to pursue research that they are excited and passionate about. Also, do not hesitate to reach out to your supervisor and colleagues to ask questions and receive advice and support on your research.

What’s the best decision you made as a grad student? 

Choosing a research topic I am truly excited and passionate about. There is nothing more motivating than the feeling that you are contributing something meaningful to the world!

What comes next for you in your career/academic journey?

I am starting my PhD in Public Health at the University of Alberta!