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I hope the school year finished well for everyone reading the blogs. It’s hard to be believe that the first year is complete, and that the bulk of my course load is behind me. I know that I am technically still in my ‘first year’ of graduate school throughout the Spring semester, but my particular program doesn’t require me to be enrolled in any classroom-based courses for this term. Although I won’t be going to class everyday, so to speak, I will still have plenty of office work to complete. Furthermore, I will be continually looking for chances to grow and strengthen my CV. Some advice that was recently passed onto me (and thus, I pass onto you!) is to not fall into the trap of thinking ‘well, school is over so I can relax a bit’, but rather take this new time you have and go even harder at pursuing new skills or opportunities to make yourself successful. For example, look for opportunities to complete a book review in any of the journals that you read regularly, or write a small interest paper for a student magazine/journal (e.g., Mind Pad) to continually practice and hone the skills you’ve been learning in school. Even if you see a chance to write an essay for a small $100 bursary, do it! No matter how small or monotonous any opportunity may seem, think of it as a way to further strengthen your individual skill set, and to set yourself apart from others.

While I welcome the break from the weekly grind of classroom learning, I have a funny feeling that this Spring semester may actually be even more busy than the previous two course filled semesters. My main focus this semester will be set on various research endeavours within my lab, and particularly research related to my thesis project. Additionally, I will be spending some time preparing for the International Investigative Interviewing Research Group (iIIRG) Conference that I (along with two other lab colleagues) will attend in England this June. I’m really looking forward to this experience and the opportunity to represent MUN and my lab’s research to a global audience. (I’ll try to remember to write a bit about the iIIRG conference experience in the next blog.)

In fact, I had another similar (albeit regionally) opportunity just a few weeks ago at the University of New Brunswick, Saint John. My supervisor, Dr. Brent Snook, and I were part of the inaugural Atlantic Criminal Justice Research and Professional Practice Conference. Our hosts, Dr. Mary Ann Campbell and her students, did a wonderful job bringing together a diverse range of academic researchers and practitioners to share and learn about diverse topics related to criminal justice. The two-day conference was packed full of talks related to topics about police perceptions, the mental health needs of offenders, crime prevention, interviewing and deception, sexual violence, and various others. In addition to the talks on these topics, Drs. Campbell, Snook, and Greg Marquis each gave a key note presentation to the conference attendees. I was really impressed with the attendance at the conference as well, especially considering that it was the Centre for Criminal Justice Studies’ first conference. The organizers did a stellar job, and I hope to be part of the next conference too. It had been a while since I gave an oral presentation at an academic conference and I confess that I was a bit nervous to do so, but everything ended up going really well in the end. Aside from gaining presentation experience, I was able to meet up with some old friends with whom I completed a Special Concentration in Forensic Psychology with during my undergrad at St. Francis Xavier University. Pictured next to me is Brianna Boyle and Catherine Gallagher; both are completing their graduate training at University of New Brunswick. “FP4LYFE!”

Always be on the look out for conferences or workshops to attend, regardless whether you are presenting or not.  Conferences give us students an opportunity to network with others in our respective fields and presents another learning opportunity. Even at the undergraduate level, don’t underestimate how great this can be for you. For example, Science Atlantic is a great place to start for any students looking to get some conference experience. Often, many academic institutions offer ‘in-house’ conferences for students to participate in. Like I said above, if you have an opportunity to develop a new skill, take it! You won’t regret it.

After the UNB conference, I was able to take a mini vacation back in Nova Scotia for a bit. It was a welcomed time that allowed me to see some family and friends, play a music gig in downtown Halifax with Jesse Thomas, and attend a family wedding on the May long weekend. I must admit, it was a bit hard to come back to St. John’s after having such a wonderful time at home, but the break from campus life has only helped me get ready to go back at it rested and refreshed.

Until next time…