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Mentorship matters
Lisa Pendergast
Dr. Greg Harris

Many graduates from the master of education, counselling psychology program at Memorial credit their success to the mentorship and support of Dr. Greg Harris.

Dr. Harris came to Newfoundland and the Faculty of Education almost nine years ago due to the reputation of the program. “Our counselling psychology program is excellent and this really was what brought me here,” said Dr. Harris. “I was excited to be able to work with graduate students who were passionate about counselling and I also have some wonderful colleagues.”

In addition to teaching with the Faculty of Education, Dr. Harris is cross appointed with the Department of Psychology and the Counselling Centre. He is a Registered Psychologist in Newfoundland and his research is largely focused on HIV prevention and living healthy with HIV.

Dr. Harris began mentoring students shortly after he arrived at Memorial. He believes that mentorship is essential to teaching, learning and student success.

“Relationship is a core ingredient of effective learning and ultimately contributes a great deal to change in perspective and behaviour,” said Dr. Harris. “My view is that building a safe space, respecting students, taking time to understand their perspectives and striving to accept them unconditionally, will help them establish self-determination, intrinsic motivation and empowerment and to reach their academic potential.”

Mentorship is not without its challenges. Dr. Harris mentors students in the thesis program and many master of education students choose to take the course route. There are also disruptions for students who do decide to pursue a thesis.

“Certain hurdles can come up that can slow down research, such as getting permission or recruiting participants, and this can be hard for students who have a plan for graduation and getting a job,” said Dr. Harris. “Finding a balance between helping students navigate a research project and letting them take on leadership within the project can be difficult at times. You want them to be driving the process, but at the same time, they are still very much learning and often they need direction and support. Finding this balance is at the heart of quality supervision, but it is easier described then done.”

Although being a mentor is demanding, Dr. Harris is driven to continue and help his students. “It is very satisfying to see a thesis student be successful with his or her research,” said Dr. Harris. “I have had students say that publishing their thesis was a highlight of their academic program, that they are using their thesis results in their current work and that they want to go onto PhD studies. These are very positive things to hear for a supervisor.”   

It is clear that his students have also benefited from the relationship. Several alumni say that working with Dr. Harris increased their knowledge and their self-confidence which they carried into their careers.

Leslie Pope is a recent graduate of the counselling psychology program and Dr. Harris was her thesis supervisor. “Dr. Harris was an immeasurable support and resource,” said Ms. Pope. “Not only did he help me with every aspect of my thesis but he also hired me as a research assistant. He went above and beyond to foster my development and has always believed in me. Dr. Harris and I have stayed in touch since my graduation and we have had two publications in prominent Canadian journals since that time.”

Kiah Buchanan is another graduate who credits Dr. Harris with her success. “The smartest decision I made when completing my degree was to ask Dr. Harris to be my thesis and academic supervisor,” said Ms. Buchanan. “He was instrumental in guiding me through the research techniques, thesis writing and in assisting with the publishing process. This contributed to a significant sense of self-accomplishment. I could also always count on Dr. Harris to lead me in the right direction toward registration as a psychologist.”

Alumna Maryanne Tucker says that Dr. Harris was the reason she enrolled in the program and encourages others to do the same. “Before I applied to the program Dr. Harris helped me navigate through the application process and encouraged me to pursue admission,” said Ms. Tucker. “I have strongly encouraged, and will continue to encourage, other potential candidates to the program to touch base with Dr. Harris if they are in need of any guidance about the program or a listening ear for direction of their future within the psychology field.”

Jun 4th, 2015

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