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Allison Leanage, FSS Fall Valedictorian

Meet Allison Leanage, fall valedictorian

"If you asked me 10 years ago, I would have never thought of being valedictorian, as I was an extremely shy person. However, it was through my graduate school experience here at McMaster University that I built my confidence and found a place to express my thoughts and ideas."

Nov 25, 2021

  1. What is your favourite memory of McMaster?

For me, it would be meeting other students throughout my program. We all came from different backgrounds and got to learn from one another. We formed strong friendships and until this very day after several years of meeting one another, we continue to keep in contact and have get togethers (online and in-person). I am so grateful for all their support.  What I will take with me after graduation is those lifelong friendships that I was able to establish at McMaster University.

  1. What led you to pursue graduate studies in the Department of Sociology?

I joined the Department of Sociology at McMaster University as they have renowned scholars and experts in the field of mental health research and quantitative methodology. I read Dr. John Fox’s work in my first undergraduate social statistics course and developed a passion for quantitative methods. I am very grateful to have taken all his quantitative methods courses and to work with such an expert in the field.

 

  1. How does it feel to be named valedictorian?

It is very surreal. I am very honoured to have been selected and excited to be in this role. If you asked me 10 years ago, I would have never thought of being valedictorian, as I was an extremely shy person. However, it was through my graduate school experience here at McMaster University that I built my confidence and found a place to express my thoughts and ideas.

 

  1. What are your plans after graduation?

I am currently working for the Government of Canada as a Policy Analyst and

will be starting a Mitacs Postdoctoral Fellowship at McMaster’s Digital Society Lab and industry sponsor Vox Pop Labs. In the future, I would like to continue conducting research and hopefully teach research methodology courses in the Social Sciences.

 

  1. Can you tell us about some of your research, and why you felt it was important to pursue these topics?

My research explores child and youth mental health across immigrant generations in family, education, and the community context in Canada. The reason why I pursued this topic is because mental health research can impact anyone regardless of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, or any other identity factor and can be hidden. Additionally, I felt the experiences we encounter as children have a great impact on our long-term mental health. As the daughter of immigrant parents, I found myself interpreting life experiences very differently than my peers growing up. I had to navigate these two worlds coming from a different culture and the Canadian culture. I found that mental health research should focus on the intersecting identities of individuals and consider generational differences because not everyone may experience things the same.

 

  1. Any advice for incoming or aspiring students or researchers?

I would say never give up! I know it is easier said then done, but I have gone through several obstacles in my life and had times where I didn’t think I would make it. It took a lot of hard work and drive to get opportunities. I’d also say not to sit and wait for opportunities to come to you or let anyone’s perception of you stop you from achieving your goals. Go looking for opportunities and make the most of them, as they may not come easy for some.

Don’t be afraid to talk to people. I was a very shy student, and it took me a while to meet my classmates, and I wish I had met them sooner. I was not confident in myself, and it took a while to build that confidence. You should also actively look for resources that McMaster has to offer such as the Students Partners Program and McMaster Research Shop. I found there are many resources that McMaster has to offer, and I only found out about them towards the end of my graduate studies.

Also, network, network, network. When I found the resources that McMaster had to offer, I was able to network and develop the necessary skills and experience for my career.

Finally, give back to others, encourage and help the people around you -- especially those who are striving within systems and structures that aren’t set up to support them. It is through helping each other that we better society.