Brock grad student reaches finals of national storytelling competition

Child and Youth Studies PhD student Melissa Blackburn (MA ’22) has been named one of the Top 20 finalists for the national Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Storytellers Challenge.

SSHRC, which receives funding from the Government of Canada, invites post-secondary students from across the country to compete by creatively conveying the impact of their research in three minutes or 300 words.

“It’s crucial to be able to communicate your research in a way that is easily digestible for people outside of your field,” Blackburn said. “Knowledge mobilization allows for the dissemination of important findings to a wider audience, sparking engaging conversations and creating positive change.”

Blackburn focused her video on her completed master’s research exploring young perfectionists’ social media use, which highlighted a profound sense of disconnection from others as well as heightened social anxiety in online spaces among perfectionistic teens.

She attributes her success to her experience producing creative research videos for the Developmental Processes in Health and Well-Being Lab (DPHWB Lab), her participation in knowledge mobilization workshops at Brock and the feedback she received from her academic and personal networks.

“One of the challenges I face is translating my research in a way that resonates with people and gets them to understand and care about the work being done,” she says. “Exercising my creative muscles is important to connect my work to the everyday experiences of individuals to show the relevance and impact it can have on society.”

She hopes to continue using her creativity to engage others in her work and foster positive change in her field.

While Blackburn won’t be able to attend the Science Writers and Communicators of Canada conference in Saskatoon where the top five winners will be chosen this May, she is grateful for the opportunity and eager to continue working on her dissertation and refine her knowledge mobilization skills throughout the process.

Her master’s research has inspired her PhD dissertation, in which she will examine the potential of fostering a self-compassion as a strategy for alleviating some of the negative emotions felt by young perfectionists. Blackburn’s supervisor is Associate Professor of Child and Youth Studies Danielle Sirianni Molnar, Tier 2 Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Adjustment and Well-Being in Children and Youth, and her research at the DPHWB Lab is supported by CRC funding.

Blackburn’s goal is to shed light on the lived experiences of teen perfectionists and their families and make a meaningful contribution to the social sciences that can help to support youth struggling with perfectionism.

To continue her research, Blackburn is currently recruiting self-identifying perfectionist teens from 12 to 18 years old, along with their parents, for her study.

Participation will involve taking a series of pictures that capture the day-to-day experiences of young perfectionists as well as a joint interview in which the teens and parents will share and discuss the pictures they chose.

Parents and teens will each receive up to $85 in Amazon gift cards for participating in the study. Those interested in participating can contact for more information.

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