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Congratulations 2021 Gold Medal recipients

Two Psychology graduate students awarded Gold Medals for academic excellence
November 18, 2021
Drs. Fiona Thomas and Brittany Jamieson were awarded Gold Medals

Champions of mental wellbeing and highly-respected graduates of the Psychology PhD program, Drs. Brittany Jamieson and Fiona Thomas, were recently awarded Gold Medals for Academic excellence. Brittany received the Governor General's Gold Medal, the most prestigious academic award for graduate students with the highest cumulative grade point average at Ryerson University (renaming in process). Fiona received a Ryerson Gold Medal, the most prestigious Faculty-wide award for outstanding academic achievement and community engagement, and the Board of Governors Leadership Award and Medal, one of the most prestigious university-wide awards for outstanding academic achievement, community engagement, and most importantly, the leadership qualities exhibited.

While the medals are awarded to individual students, both recipients stress that this would not have been possible without the extensive help and support they had throughout their time at Ryerson.

Medal winners fostered equity, support and inclusion

Both recipients, who completed their graduate studies in spring 2021, have conducted research in the areas of promoting equity amongst their peers and broader community. Nominator and Psychology Graduate Program Director Dr. Todd Girard notes that, “Fiona and Brittany’s productive research programs are highly innovative and anchored in real-world issues with potential for much societal impact.”

As a part of the Mental Health and Wellbeing Group, Brittany helped organize events, supports, and meaningful changes at the departmental level, informed by a survey the Group administered to assess well-being and needs for graduate students.

Fiona’s passion for global mental health inspired her to engage in initiatives to increase diversity in clinical psychology and to conduct community-based research with marginalized populations. 

“I hope that in some small way, these efforts make clinical psychology feel more accessible for those often underrepresented in this field as well as for those who want to engage in research off the beaten path,” Fiona says.

“These students were integral members of our department, including helping to organize events and mentoring programs to promote wellbeing, equity, and inclusion among graduate students. They have further applied these strengths to their clinical work and community initiatives,” said Dr. Girard.

Finding balance, taking risks, and prioritizing well-being essential to success 

“I have repeated the mantra, ‘graduate school is a marathon, not a sprint’ to myself many times over the last several years. There are so many demands to balance – coursework, research efforts, clinical or practicum responsibilities, and additional volunteer and passion-projects – all of which compete for your time and energy,” said Brittany. “It is easy to get overwhelmed and to set aside other values and priorities trying to make it through.” 

Advice that helped Fiona: Do what scares you. “There is nothing in life too scary that’s not worth attempting. The things that scared me the most also led to my greatest growth personally and professionally,” she said.

Brittany also relied on the advice to remember that “good enough is good enough” and, importantly, “your good enough is good enough.” 

“This wisdom was essential to my wellbeing and efficiency in graduate school,” she shared. “It was a consistent reminder to trust in my work ethic and my ideas. I share this advice with others because perfectionism and imposter syndrome are ever-present visitors in academia and add stress to an already stressful process.”

With students set to return to campus for the Winter 2022 semester, Brittany shared an important reminder: “You got here, you deserve to be here, and it is so helpful to find your people who can remind you of that when times are tough.”

Applying their skills in new careers

Since completing her pre-doctoral clinical residency at Hamilton Health Sciences, Brittany has been hired within the Child and Youth Mental Health Outpatient Service. 

“In my role, I get to apply the knowledge and skills that I developed at X University and work with individuals and families in their recovery journey. As my training at X University was life-span focused, I am also working part-time with adult clients in a private practice, Hamilton Psychological Services,” said Brittany.

Fiona recently completed a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship on a joint project between Stanford University and X University and is also embracing her journey as a mother of two. In addition to recently welcoming a newborn, she’ll soon be taking on a new role as a part-time researcher at Mount Sinai Hospital, where she will train non-specialist providers to deliver a psychological treatment for the perinatal population.

“There is also potential to engage in global mental health work, working with non-specialist providers in India,” Fiona shared. “I’ll continue with my supervised year of practice at McKenzie Psychology, a private practice in London, and simultaneously be exploring scientist-practitioner opportunities to engage in once I return from maternity leave.”

Wellbeing support for students

Ryerson University offers a wide range of health, wellbeing, and academic support for students. Academic accommodations, counselling and medical services, equity service centres and peer-led support groups. Learn more here.