Applied social psychology students at the University of Saskatchewan enjoy a unique opportunity in both masters and doctoral programs, which allows them to participate in the annual Student Evaluation Case Competition.
The case competition began in 1986 and according to their website, has established a reputation as a dynamic, hands-on opportunity for post-secondary students to learn about evaluation.
The competition aims to help students build their evaluation skills using real-life cases. Each February, teams of university students from across Canada assess a case and submit their responses online. The top three teams are chosen by a panel of judges and invited to compete at the Canadian Evaluation Society annual conference.
This year, the U of S team travelled to Montréal and took home the title for the third time in the competition’s history.
Linzi Williamson, doctoral student of applied social psychology at the U of S, recognizes the value of this opportunity.
“The [U of S] applied social psychology program is quite unique. There is only a handful of other schools across Canada that actually offer a similar program. There certainly are some other programs, not psychology related, that offer training in program evaluation but to have an applied social psychology program evaluation focus is quite unique,” Williamson said.
According to Williamson, the program and ability to participate in the case competition are not the only unique opportunities that the U of S offers its students.
Upon completing her undergraduate studies at Wilfred Laurier University, Williamson relocated from Ontario to complete her graduate and doctoral studies at the U of S under the guidance of Karen Lawson, associate head and professor of the department of psychology.
Williamson stresses the importance of having a supportive supervisor that encourages students’ goals and aspirations.
“The reason why I moved here to do my masters in applied social psychology — the number one reason — was because of Karen. Karen Lawson has been my supervisor for my masters and currently is for my PhD, and then she has also been my coach for the student competitions.”
The applied social psychology program provides extensive training in research methodologies and in psychological theories and statistics, which builds a skill set that transfers into real-world application. The case competition takes the development of this skill set to the next level.
This is Williamson’s third and final year participating in the competition.
“I would say to students, we don’t always have a lot of people in applied social who want to take part in this competition and I would love to remind them about what a great experience it is. It is much different and more intensive than you could often get when doing your internships and practicums and it is something that is in addition to those experiences,” Williamson said. “I really think students need to give it a second thought and not just say, ‘Oh I don’t have the time,’ because it is absolutely worth it to make the time to take part in this competition.”
Michael Heimlick, graduate student in applied social psychology at the U of S, joined the team this year. His research studies on First Nations proved beneficial in the last round of the competition, which focused on the Aboriginal Youth Leadership Program. The program, offered by Canada World Youth, aims to build capacity for Aboriginal youth to become community leaders.
“I think what really set us above the other teams is that we really tried to focus on cultural sensitivity and we understand that we don’t know best. We have to work with the First Nations communities that were in the case to develop an evaluation that they are going to be able to use and understand; it just makes sense to work with them,” Heimlick said.
The U of S team’s presentation was so impressive that Canada World Youth wants to use their proposal to determine the impact that their current services are having on Aboriginal youth.
Since his experience at the competition, Heimlick has decided to pursue a career in evaluation and encourages other social psychology students to participate in the future.
“Take part! You never know what you may learn, or you might like it so much that you will want to make a career of it — like me.”