Inlight Research Fellowships in support of mental health research

The U of T students who received Inlight Research Fellowships

Clockwise from top left: Lauren Brown, Maya E. Amestoy, Yiyi Wang, Andrea McCracken, Xue (Sunny) Xiang, Rya Buckley and Yaxi Zhao (supplied photos)

Rya Buckley’s graduate research at the University of Toronto focuses on examining the experiences and access to mental health supports of racialized and marginalized students – expertise she will now put to work on behalf of her peers. 

A master's student in school and clinical child psychology at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), Buckley is one of seven recipients of the inaugural Inlight Research Fellowship Program.

Rya Buckley

Rya Buckley (supplied image)

The award, which has been presented to students across U of T’s three campuses, will support Buckley’s ongoing research aimed at investigating access to mental health supports, including how and whether students are able to access supports consistently, and what makes it easier to maintain a focus on their mental health.

Buckley says she believes that student mental health directly correlates with student success, whether that’s good grades, being able to complete courses or finding a subject they are passionate about.

Buckley says she is also interested in understanding the experiences of students who exist at the intersections of multiple marginalized identities.

“For the students who exist at the intersections of marginalized identities or who are racialized, I want to understand how those identities influence their situations and experiences as post-secondary students and their access to mental health,” she says.

“Knowledge translation is very important to me. I want to be able to give this research back to the students because it's their stories and it needs their thoughts and interpretations to be meaningful.”

The Inlight Research Fellowship Program supports independent student researchers in the field of post-secondary student mental health. Officially launching May 1, Inlight is a U of T Institutional Strategic Initiative (ISI) that is building research capacity for post-secondary student mental health on campus by ensuring student perspectives are included in research. 

“The Inlight Research Fellowship Program supports exceptional graduate students in becoming independent researchers in the field of post-secondary student mental health, because they are the future of this field of research and their perspectives matter,” says Kristin Cleverleydirector and chair of Inlight and an associate professor at the Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing.

Buckley says university students invest significant time and money into their education and expect a quality experience.

“The post-secondary experience can be some of a student’s most formative years,” she says, “and our research will help shape that experience so that it might be more supportive.”

Here is the full list of Inlight’s inaugural research fellowship award recipients:

Maya E. Amestoy

Maya E. Amestoy is a master’s student in clinical psychology in the department of psychological clinical science at U of T Scarborough. Her research explores the relationship between positive school support and internalized stigma and psychological well-being in LGBTQ+ post-secondary students. Supervised by Associate Professor Amanda A. Uliaszek, Amestoy’s research aims to mobilize support for inclusivity in post-secondary settings.

Lauren Brown

Lauren Brown is a PhD student in the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education’s (OISE) department of curriculum, teaching and learning. Her research examines how students at U of T describe, learn about and act in support of their own wellbeing. The goal is to improve the teaching and learning of wellbeing on campus, and to take a strengths-based approach in learning about how students engage with their own mental health. Brown is supervised by Associate Professor Antoinette Gagne.

Rya Buckley

Rya Buckley is a master’s student in school and clinical child psychology at OISE. Her research sets out to examine the unique experiences of racialized university students in accessing mental health services and supports, including multiple intersecting identities. Buckley aims to add strength-based perspectives to the literature on racialized student mental health, highlighting both positive support-seeking experiences as well as room for improvement. Buckley is supervised by Assistant Professor Chloe Hamza.

Andrea McCracken

Andrea McCracken is a master’s student at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy. Her research aims to explore a pharmacist’s role, including the use of digital technologies, in supporting post-secondary students with psychotropic medication management. Her study will increase the understanding about how pharmacists within the primary health-care system can care for post-secondary students during the transition to adulthood by managing mental illness using psychotropic medications. McCracken is supervised by Pharmacy’s Dean and Professor Lisa Dolovich.

Yiyi Wang

Yiyi Wang is a PhD student in the department of psychology at U of T Mississauga. Her research takes a student-centered approach in developing student-informed conceptualizations of wellbeing and a holistic approach to understanding what students need. Her research will test whether proposed mental health interventions, such as online tools and a self-developed chatbot, are beneficial to students’ coping skills and wellbeing. Wang is supervised by Associate Professor Norman Farb.

Xue (Sunny) Xiang

Xue (Sunny) Xiang is a PhD student in organizational behaviour and human resource management in the Rotman School of Management. Her research explores how post-secondary students’ liminal experience facilitates recovery and wellbeing. In this context Xiang is looking to develop a preliminary understanding of student’s use of liminal activities as a way to cope with role-related stresses. Xiang is supervised by Professor Soo Min Toh.

Yaxi Zhao

Yaxi Zhao is a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Information. Her research focuses on the impact of students’ interpersonal relationships, including romantic relationships, on their mental health. Specifically, Zhao is examining the challenges and opportunities in triad remote couple’s therapies and designing a therapeutic platform prototype as an intervention to better understand the communication needs of therapists and student clients during remote triad couple therapy sessions. Zhao is supervised by Professor Rhonda McEwen.