ONeil photo 2020

Kelly O’Neil, Doctoral Student,
Inter-University PhD Program in Educational Studies, St. Francis Xavier University

MA Family Studies and Gerontology

I returned to studies as a mature student to undertake a master’s degree in Family Studies and Gerontology (FSGN) at MSVU after years of doing community work with people living in poverty. I was interested in building on a previous degree in social work to focus on issues facing older adults. For my master’s thesis, I was supported in conducting a qualitative study of housing insecurity among older women living with a low income in Halifax Regional Municipality.

From the moment I arrived at the Mount I recognized a difference in this small but mighty institution. I felt respected and inspired by department faculty who took the time to get to know their students and who were genuinely interested in helping them gain the knowledge and self-insight they need to work with older adults. As an older person myself, I daily received the message at the Mount that age is no barrier to lifelong learning. I was also encouraged early in the master’s program to continue my studies with doctoral work, and I am currently enrolled in the Inter-University PhD Program in Educational Studies at St. Francis Xavier University. For my doctoral thesis, I am developing a community-based action research project involving older, socio-economically marginalized women.

Working with my master’s thesis committee members, who are both inspiring teachers and internationally recognized scholars, contributed enormously to the development of my skills as an academic researcher, as did my work as a student researcher in the Nova Scotia Centre on Aging (NSCA). Among the interesting projects I took part in while at NSCA was a qualitative study exploring the experiences of older workers in Nova Scotia, taking part in interviews, focus groups, data analysis, and reporting on the findings. Working closely with the accomplished researchers and academic mentors at the Mount gave me valuable exposure to a range of research methods, and set a high standard for professionalism, integrity, and passion for academic work which have provided an excellent foundation for my doctoral program. I consider my time at the Mount to have been a privilege and a joy and one of the best learning experiences of my life.