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Grants for Women
2019

Cassandra Burgess
Catherine Levesque
Nicole Del Rosario
Renay Maurice

If you wish to be in contact with any of the winners please e-mail chair@soroptimistfoundation.ca.


Cassandra Burgess
PhD Candidate
Lakehead University

Casey Burgess is a registered psychotherapist, and has provided a variety of mental health and support services for individuals with disabilities and their caregivers for over 22 years. Her role has involved a great deal of work with women, as women are a highly-represented population in disability services. Women experience more anxiety and depression than do men. Women with disabilities are more likely than men to report needing help with functional life skills. Women are more likely to report needing workplace accommodations and less likely to have had accommodations made available to them than men. Moreover, women receive a lower average personal income than men (with or without disabilities). As a result, women need high quality psychotherapeutic and social support.

Casey has provided these services including group and individual therapy specific to women with disabilities and group and individual counselling specific to mothers of children with disabilities. She has taught others to do the same through her role as a college and university professor in psychology and social service work. Moreover, as part of her doctoral studies at Lakehead University, she is pursuing research in how to best provide upstream support for these challenges of mental health and disabilities to prevent such a high demand for these services.

Casey's research focuses on well-being, mental health and resilience which are societal concerns growing at an alarming rate. Twenty-seven percent of children in Ontario have learning, health, and behaviour challenges based on their vulnerability upon entering first grade. These problems have been shown to involve challenges of self-regulation, defined as the individualized process by which we manage our energy and tension to respond to and recover from stressors. Problems with self-regulation are implicated in problems of cognition, mental health, physical health, and behaviour and these challenges contribute to the well-being of children and their caregivers at home and in school.

Casey's doctoral dissertation is focused on supporting these educators who are trying to facilitate the self-regulation of their students, yet whom are experiencing the highest burnout rates compared with other professions. Early Childhood Educators and kindergarten teachers have demonstrated a need to learn about the neuroscience of self-regulation. It is known in the field to be an often-misunderstood construct, and Casey's research involves exploring educator understanding around how to best support self-regulation in the kindergarten classroom. The training Casey provides to educators through online teaching and face to face workshops and consultation allows them to begin to alter the developmental and mental health trajectories of their students amidst an alarmingly stressful and challenging environment by creating calmer environments and strategies which benefit educators and children alike.

In her personal life, Casey balances many important responsibilities: raising two strong and independent daughters, teaching part time at three different educational institutions, maintaining a private psychotherapy practice, and completing a full time doctoral degree. She does this in hopes of positively contributing to the thriving lifespan development of young children, and creating capacity within social services to be able to best support the individuals of our future. Her work as a psychotherapist prepared her to be able to connect her professional experience to teaching opportunities - sharing her skills and expertise with psychology and social service work students, many of whom plan to move on to graduate work in educational and counselling fields themselves. The connection of self-regulation to all areas of life is pervasive, and it is a framework which contributes to mental health, education, substance use disorders, physical health, parenting, and so much more. Casey plans to continue the remainder of her career through an expansion of her private psychotherapy practice as well as in academia, sharing her learning and research with students and colleagues, and continuing to pursue research opportunities in the mental health of educators and their students.




Catherine Levesque
MBA Student
Laval University

Catherine is enrolled in the MBA program at Laval University in Quebec City. After a college degree in Natural Sciences, she decided to pursue her education in molecular biology at the Universit� de Sherbrooke. Passionate, she obtained a bachelor's degree with three honors of excellence in the faculty list. She then obtained a position in a pharmaceutical company in Qu�bec where she worked in research & development for seven years.

Having always been interested in personal finances, she decided in 2017, then a mother of a one- and a three-year-old, to leave her job and its financial security to go back to university full-time to turn this interest into a profession. This is why she decided to reorient her career and began an MBA focused in financial services to become a financial planner.

Catherine is concerned by two main challenges for women in finances. First, women represent only 20% of the financial markets workforce. Adequate representation in this area is crucial as women are well aware of the very particular realities of women's financial health. The prolonged absence from the workplace as a result of maternity leaves reduces women's ability to save for retirement. Having a higher life expectancy than men makes them more vulnerable to surviving their capital. Forty two percent of women believe they would be unable to achieve financial independence in the event of the death of their spouse, whereas only 30% for men share this concern. There is therefore critical financial education work to do with women to empower them about their abilities. Catherine strongly believes it is possible to avoid this type of problem with a rigorous approach to personal financial planning. She intends to give her future female clients the opportunity to take charge of their personal finances as soon as possible, in their working lives.

Second, it is still very difficult for a woman to obtain the same notoriety and credibility as a man. With her professional network and determination, Catherine aspires to leave an inheritance to her daughters were these perceptions will no longer apply.

Catherine is fortunate to be employed in a firm that advocates an integrated approach to financial services and puts the customer at the center of the process, which is directly related to her own values. Moreover, she has the privilege of working with a majority of female colleagues, in this male-dominated industry. She wishes to grow a fulfilling career at this firm and convey her passion and interest in financial education. She has people's economic well-being at heart and believes that the advice of a committed personal finance professional can make a significant difference. As it is a major concern, she has dedicated a section of her Master's essay to the place of women in the finance field.

Catherine makes a special effort to ensure that her children are not affected by this hectic work-life-study pace and she invests a lot of time and effort to be present for her daughters. Experiencing first-hand the challenging responsibilities of this lifestyle, she recently took on the cause of student parents to facilitate the earning of scholarships. For student parents, imposing a criterion of full-time studies (12+ university credits) to be eligible for scholarships is a major problem. This criterion greatly disadvantages those, especially female students, who opt for part-time studies to promote family balance. She is tackling the first steps, in collaboration with the Association des parents �tudiants de l'Universit� Laval (APEtUL), to open the dialogue with the Human Right Commission. This cause is all the more important to her because the Financial Assistance for Education of the Quebec Government already recognizes the difficulties faced by parent students by granting them deemed full-time student status (Gouvernement du Qu�bec, 2019). Unfortunately, a vast majority of scholarships do not recognize this status, hence the steps she is undertaking.

Catherine realizes that by her choices and actions, she is a model not only for her children, to whom she teaches her values, but also to other women who want to achieve professional fulfillment.




Nicole Del Rosario
Masters Student in Clinical Psychology
University of Regina

Nicole Del Rosario is completing her master's degree in Clinical Psychology at the University of Regina in the Depression, Cognition, and Culture Laboratory. She completed her BA Honours in Psychology at the University of Winnipeg. Her current research focuses on public perceptions of mindfulness-based programs, and whether brief and specific psychoeducation may improve these perceptions. She also holds an interest in examining barriers for mental health service use. Nicole has been awarded Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Joseph-Armand Bombardier Master's Scholarship, The Psychology Foundation of Canada's Dr. Harvey and Grace Brooker Award, and University of Winnipeg's Dr. John and Elizabeth Cote Award for Highest Standing in Psychology Methodology to support her studies and research presentations. She is currently a teaching assistant at the University of Regina in Introductory Psychology with previous experience in Honours' level Psychology research methodology and Introductory Biology.

Nicole's passion for community involvement and leadership was nurtured during her high school education which fostered an awareness and advocacy for women's voices in an all-girls environment. She was a trained school peer counsellor, tutor, and yearbook co-editor. Throughout her high school and university education, Nicole has remained committed to serve her community. She has an extensive history of involvement as a volunteer in health care settings, such as CancerCare Manitoba and the Winnipeg Health Sciences Center Child and Adolescent psychiatric unit, and various community settings, such as the Winnipeg Public Library and Quagga Stray Cat Rescue Shelter. She also took leadership roles acting as a program coordinator for the University of Manitoba Biomedical Youth Program by organizing an annual summer camp promoting science education for inner city youth and facilitating a weekly Science Buddies mentorship program.

Nicole plans to pursue a doctorate in Clinical Psychology, and upon graduation, she hopes to begin a career that combines clinical practice with research. She is grateful to have had such a positive high school experience that cherished women's contribution. Nicole is motivated to continue this legacy by improving the quality of women's lives through mental health care.




Renay Maurice
Masters Student, Faculty of Social Sciences
University of Victoria

Renay Maurice is a Masters student at the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Victoria. Her research focuses on the intersections of gender and policy, with a particular focus on gender-based violence. She completed her Bachelors' of Sociology (Honours) and Women's Studies in 2015 with distinction. Renay is a published author and has been the recipient of numerous scholarships and awards based on her academic performance. In 2018 she was awarded the prestigious Canadian Graduate Scholarship to Honour Nelson Mandela for her Thesis work.

She currently works as a senior policy analyst with the Government of British Columbia in the Gender Equity Office in the Ministry of Finance where she conducts research and leads projects to support the government mandate for gender equality. She also trains public servants across the province in how to do gender based analysis in their daily work.

Her hope for the future is to see Canadian women, no matter their race, age, ability or socio-economic status be free of discrimination and be able to reach their full potential. Renay plans to dedicate her life to improving policy, programs and legislation and reducing social inequalities for marginalized populations, particularly single mothers and their children.

Renay is an active community member and volunteer, working with environmental organizations off-campus and advocating for student rights on campus. She is also a single parent who raised two daughters who are now successful young adults.



 
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