Faculty of Education doctoral student, Bahar Haghighat, has been awarded the Atlantic Education Graduate Student Conference (AEGSC) 2015 award for Best Online Presentation.
The AEGSC conference promotes the sharing of research between graduate students, researchers and educators in the area of education. It gives participants the opportunity to present and discuss important topics related to the field of education at all levels.
Ms. Haghighat attended the conference via SKYPE to present her talk, “A Critical Examination of the Dominant Obesity Discourse and its Effects.” The essay discusses the dominant obesity discourse in public health, popular media and schools from critical points of view and argues that the idealization of slim bodies, especially at schools, has harmful effects on youth that can “contribute to the anxieties and damaging practices associated with the desire to achieve a socially desirable body," (Burrows et al., 2002, p. 47).
Ms. Haghighat is a first year PhD student in the Faculty of Education. Prior to coming to Memorial, she received a bachelor of arts in counseling psychology from Alzahra University in Tehran, Iran. After receiving her bachelor degree, she worked as a counselor in a rehabilitation center in Tehran and in her hometown of Qazvin. She later moved to Malaysia and completed a master of educational psychology.
Before arriving at Memorial University to continue her studies, Ms. Haghighat worked as a counselor with adolescent daughters of mothers with breast cancer and her preliminary PhD proposal was about working with these daughters through arts-based research. However, everything changed during her first year in the Faculty of Education, working with assistant professor, Dr. Heather McLeod.
“I have started learning thoroughly about using innovative approaches of arts-based research,” said Ms. Haghighat. “In my advanced methodology course with Dr. Badenhorst and Dr. FitzPatrick as well as my feminist theory classes with Dr. Yeoman, I got a chance to explore research paradigms that I was not familiar with before like, poststructuralism, feminism and other forms of critical studies.”
Dr. McLeod introduced Ms. Haghighat to an exchange research group on the arts and health, where she met other researchers, community activists and artists who aim to explore how the arts are connected to health. As a result, she made broader connections and took a course with Dr. Beausoleil, associate professor of social science and health with Community Health and Humanities, and got to know Dr. Cameron, assistant professor with the School of Human Kinetics and Recreation, both of whom are well known critical obesity scholars at MUN.This experience led Ms. Haghighat to a completely new, and now award-winning, research topic.
“I have gradually found the research that really matters for me; as someone who has struggled with her weight since childhood, I’ve reflected on the way I’ve been taught to think and experience the world, health, and my body,” said Ms. Haghighat. “For my PhD research project, I want to focus on critical obesity studies with special attention on body image and weight stigma.”
Ms. Haghighat’s supervisor, Dr. McLeod, could not be more proud of her student. “Bahar is a joy to teach, said Dr. McLeod. “She is passionate about her research and I am convinced her work will make a unique and impressive contribution to the area.”