Emma Chaikowsky

Emma Chaikowsky

Program:  MA in Applied Disability Studies

Program Entry Date:  2020

Advisors: Dr. Laura Mullins & Dr. Burnham-Riosa

Going into my undergraduate I had almost no idea what I wanted to do. There were things I thought I should do- but none of them really ignited passion in me. I wasn’t even sure what second-year program I wanted to go into- and after a bumpy first year, I didn’t have a whole lot of choices. A friend pointed a program out to me: a combined Bachelor of Applied Science degree and Autism & Behaviour Science certificate through McMaster University and Mohawk College. It sounded interesting so I went for it- and I fell in love! I loved the idea of being able to help people who society so often outcasts and for the first time in my university career I felt like I was in the right place.

As I continued in my course, I realized there were so many other opportunities, besides Applied Behaviour Analysis, to make a difference in people’s lives- and I was introduced to disability studies. I remember when I was in second grade, and everybody was making fun of my friend who was in the “special needs” class, and I just couldn’t figure out why they would be so mean and realized that this had been my passion for a long time. That Disability Studies was what I wanted to do.
A few of my professors had completed the Master of Applied Disability Studies (MADS) program at Brock, which is how I first heard about it. I applied for the MADS but realized I had actually wanted the Master of Arts in Applied Disability Studies (MA ADS) program. The incredible people at admissions were able to accommodate my application switch and I had interviews with two professors- Dr. Priscilla Burnham-Riosa and Dr. Mullins- who both ended up accepting me as their grad student!
Since then, I have loved this program. I absolutely love working with my supervisors who are always so incredibly supportive and are helping me bring my ideas to life. My classmates are great and I have developed really strong relationships with quite a few of them, including my best grad-school friend! I love the labs that I am in with my supervisors and their other research assistants and master’s students. I have learned so much inside the classroom, as well as outside of it from peers, my supervisors, professors, webinars and workshops that Brock has and that I have been exposed to and research that I have been able to partake in and present.
Before I came to this program, I was doubting if school was for me. I had been struggling with focus and time management, as well as severe anxiety. The support of this program, my supervisors, and the passion I feel for what I am learning and doing has completely changed my perspective. Student Accessibility Service Case Workers and the Graduate Learning Strategist have been an absolute asset to me and with so much support I once again feel that I am in the absolute right place, despite the occasional imposter syndrome!
I am hoping to be able to continue my education and research after my master’s and have found a passion for research that I didn’t know existed before! I always thought of research and somebody reading a million papers and then writing about them, or somebody in a lab alone with test tubes, and- being a very social person- these did not suit me. Through this program, however, I have realized that while yes reading texts and completing literature reviews is an essential part of research, there is so much more to it! I have particularly fallen in love with Participatory Action Research (PAR) which meaningfully includes the typical “passive subject” of research, in the actual research process as a competent collaborative partner. For my thesis, I will be completing PAR research which redesigns a contextual behaviour science-based group change process into one that is more accessible for persons with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) in collaboration with people with IDD themselves.
I am so grateful for this program and am excited for all that is to come! If you are even considering applying- go for it, I am so happy I did!