Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

Psychology students present research at Toronto conference

October 17th, 2018
L-r, Amira Hmidan, Odessa McKenna, Dr. Karen Blair, Breanna O’Handley, Emilia Lorenz, and Rhea Hoskin

StFX psychology professor Dr. Karen Blair and several students recently attended and gave presentations at the Canadian Sex Research Forum held in Toronto, ON—a terrific opportunity to broaden their academic learning.   

“This is the second year in a row that we have been able to take students to this conference and have them present their thesis research,” Dr. Blair says. 

“The students (Odessa McKenna, Amira Hmidan and Emilia Lorenz) were supported by funds from the Jules Leger Fund. We absolutely would not be able to take this many students to conferences without this source of funding. This level of support for undergraduate students to attend conferences where they get to present their research is simply unparalleled by other universities,” she says. 

Dr. Blair said the students had the opportunity to meet and interact with some of the leading researchers in the field from across Canada, including a number of Canada Research Chairs. She says she also received a number of positive comments about their presentations, and that they were some of the only undergraduate students giving oral presentations at the conference. 

The conference was a fantastic learning experience and very student-friendly, says StFX student Odessa McKenna. 

“It was enlightening, entertaining, informative and inspiring, exposing me to a variety of new and unique research relevant to the pertinent issues of sexual assault, public sexual health, sexual discrimination and much more,” she says. “It also gave me the opportunity to interact with and learn from a number of successful and experienced researchers and professionals. CSRF is a remarkable organization and I always felt extremely welcomed and appreciated.  I hope to have the chance to attend in the future.”  

Attending a conference as a student is a valuable experience, agrees Emilia Lorenz. “It not only offers you opportunities to grow but also lets you form connections with other researchers, who can potentially help you or your university in the future. It felt great having the opportunity to present our research, as well as getting feedback from other professors who work in the same research area,” she says. 

She says the conference made her realize how much more there is to learn about the field of sexuality, as well as how much room there is to conduct further research. She says she encourages other students to take the opportunity if it presents itself to attend a conference. “Being able to represent KLB research at the conference was a memory I will cherish forever.” 

The student presentations included:

Emilia Lorenz, who graduated from StFX in May 2018 with a degree in psychology, gave an oral presentation on her thesis research examining the psychophysiology of sexual prejudice. She is an international student from Germany and flew back to attend the conference and to visit StFX. Her presentation was titled, “Turning the Other Cheek: Evidence of Cognitive and Physiological Self-Regulation Among Heterosexual Men with a History of Anti-Gay Aggression.”

Amira Hmidan, who also graduated in May 2018 in psychology, gave a poster presentation on her research examining sex dreams, “Gender, Erotophilia and Sociosexuality as Predictors of Sexual Dream Content, Valence and Frequency.” 

Odessa McKenna, a current StFX human kinetics student, gave a poster presentation on her proposed thesis research exploring public vs. private affection in same-sex vs. mixed-sex relationships, titled “It’s a Comfort to Hold Hands,” Or Is It? A Survey and Experience Sampling Study of Private v. Public Affection Sharing Patterns in Same-Sex and Mixed-Sex Relationships.”

Bre O’Handley, a StFX psychology graduate who is currently working as StFX’s Gender and Sexual Diversity Student Advisor, gave an oral presentation on the research that she has continued to work on since graduation exploring LGBTQ individuals and their parents’ memories of coming out. Her presentation was titled, “Memories of Coming Out: Recall Concordance Between LGBTQ+ Adults and their Parents.”

Steve Wilton, a former StFX music student who is now studying psychology at Acadia University, gave a poster presentation on a StFX Funded Observation Study conducted over the summer with Ms. McKenna, Dr. Blair, Ms. O’Handley, and Rhea Hoskin where they observed public displays of affection in 10 different cities. 

Rhea Hoskin, a Student Success Centre instructor at StFX, also gave a poster presentation on research from her recently defended dissertation, titled, “Femininity? It’s the Aesthetic of Subordination”: Examining the Intersecting Role of Femmephobia in Experiences of Discrimination and Oppression Among Sexual and Gender Minorities.” 

Dr. Blair says the delegation also listened to a number of relevant and current presentations, such as a presentation on experiences of sexual violence on Canadian campuses showing that nearly half of all sexual assaults that take place on Canadian university campuses take place during a student’s first year on campus. Dr. Blair and Ms. O’Handley look forward to sharing the knowledge they learned on this topic with the StFX community as it moves forward in implementing evidence-based practices to reduce campus-based sexual violence. 

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