Spencer Deschenes '14 Travels to Ireland for Research Fellowship

So far, 2013 has been a busy year for Spencer Deschenes '14.

A psychology major with a concentration in counseling and health, Spencer was awarded the Emmanuel College Travel Fellowship for Advanced Study and an Honors Research and Creative Activities Award for the spring 2013 semester. Her awards funded travel to Ireland this summer, where she worked with clinical psychologist Michael Gordon, Ph.D. of Trinity College Dublin to collect data investigating the relationship between living situations and alcohol use in Irish college students.

Spencer then transitioned to University College Dublin to work with Dr. Barbara Dooley and Dr. Amanda Fitzgerald on the My World Survey, a national survey on the mental health of youth in Ireland. It is the largest study to date in Ireland investigating youth mental health. She also had the opportunity to attend a workshop focused on how to recognize mental health problems in young people, as well as strategies to increase the mental health of others. Before returning to the United States, Spencer was invited to write a literature review about substance use among young people in Ireland for The Irish Psychologist, a magazine that publishes issues and topics relevant to psychologists in Ireland.

Her time in Ireland shaped what will be her senior year at Emmanuel, giving her a new focus and a new set of goals.

"After my research assistant position in Ireland, I have decided to continue furthering my research plans for my last year at Emmanuel," Spencer said. "Although I already had a project in place for my Senior Directed Research project, the time in Ireland allowed me to decide to apply to the Fulbright U.S. Student Program to return back to University College Dublin for a Masters in Psychological Science.

"During my time [in Ireland], I learned what it was like to assist with research in a different country. It taught me that in order to be the most successful student, I need to learn in a variety of settings while immersed in different cultures."

At Emmanuel, Spencer is a research assistant the lab of Assistant Professor of Psychology Jacqueline Alfonso Barry, who mentored her through the process of developing and editing her award submissions and obtaining the collaborations abroad, as well as providing letters of recommendation. 

"Dr. Alfonso Barry has influenced various decisions I have made while at Emmanuel, academically and research based," Spencer said. "She simultaneously cares about my success as a researcher while also making sure I am learning every step of the way. [She] pushes me to reach my full potential."

As part of Dr. Alfonso Barry's lab, Spencer was able to help develop a manuscript when she had only been an assistant for a few months and was also encouraged to present a poster at the New England Psychological Association in October 2012, despite her fear of presenting.

"Without her constant support, I would not have been able to achieve what I have while at Emmanuel, including successfully applying to the fellowship, which ended up shaping my future as a student in psychology," she added.

This summer, Spencer was also one of only seven students chosen by the New England Psychological Association (NEPA) to receive a 2012-2013 Honorary Undergraduate Scholars Award. She was chosen based on her achievements in and contributions to psychology in the areas of academics, research activities, service and other evidence of her interest and goals in the field. She has the opportunity to attend the awards ceremony, which will be held during NEPA's 53rd Annual Meeting at Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport, Conn., in October 2013.

Spencer (center) with Dr. Barbara Dooley (left) and Dr. Amanda Fitzgerald (right) at University College Dublin.
Spencer (center) with Dr. Barbara Dooley (left) and Dr. Amanda Fitzgerald (right) at University College Dublin.