Dr Jessie-Lee McIsaac-website

The Government of Canada today announced that Dr. Jessie-Lee McIsaac has been appointed Tier II Canada Research Chair in Early Childhood: Diversity and Transition at Mount Saint Vincent University. The five-year appointment carries an award value of $500,000.

Dr. McIsaac is also an Assistant Professor within the Faculty of Education and Department of Child and Youth Study at the Mount. She was previously a Postdoctoral Fellow and Associate Research Scholar with the Healthy Populations Institute at Dalhousie University. She holds a PhD in Public Health and an MSc in Health Promotion, both from the University of Alberta, and a BSc in Kinesiology from Dalhousie University.

“As the newest Canada Research Chair at the Mount, Dr. McIsaac joins a community of leading researchers across a number of disciplines, and we’re excited for the role she will play in furthering the University’s research mandate,” said Dr. Mary Bluechardt, President and Vice-Chancellor, Mount Saint Vincent University. “Her work stands to have tremendous influence on the quality of life of young children and their families across Nova Scotia and beyond.”

Dr. McIsaac works collaboratively with community, policy makers and research participants to co-produce research that explores the implementation of policy initiatives that support child health and well-being in Nova Scotia. Her PhD research focused on health promotion policies and practices in Nova Scotia schools. In her Tier II Canada Research Chair role, she will be focused on research that informs policy and program design and decision-making to the greatest extent possible.

“It is a really unique time to be working in early childhood research right now in Nova Scotia given that there is so much happening in policy and opportunities within the changing system.”

— Dr. Jessie-Lee McIsaac

Another critical aspect of Dr. McIsaac’s work is her focus on supporting and engaging marginalized families with young children. “We know that there are families with young children that struggle to access the supports and services they need,” she said. “It can be difficult for families to navigate the complex system of programs and services that are offered across sectors. I’m interested in research that looks at what we might need to do to adjust implementation of these initiatives to better support families with young children.”

Dr. McIsaac has plans to involve families in a photography project through which they can visually share their experience of accessing programs for their young children. “We are hoping that this approach will take away some of the hurdles families experience in expressing the challenges they face. This research also involves the families in the analysis process – so it’s not researchers doing the analysis on families, it’s doing an analysis with families. It’s about providing voice for families so they can share their experiences and express their needs with regards to supporting their child.”

Dr. McIsaac’s research emphasis on young children and their families is based largely on the idea that by addressing issues early-on, the potential for negative future outcomes can be reduced (for example, in education, health, etc). She has been part of research collaborations with government and community partners to support provincial early childhood initiatives.

As well, she’s currently working with other researchers to study the achievement gaps among Nova Scotian children. One project used a professional learning community to support social emotional learning and another is exploring the experiences of African Nova Scotian families in the school system. The ultimate goal is to influence policies and programs that effectively meet the needs of these students.

It’s of note that Dr. McIsaac’s appointment at the Mount spans the university’s Faculty of Education and Department of Child and Youth Study. “I think bringing education and early childhood together is a really unique opportunity for my position,” she said. “I’m working to collaborate with faculty in both areas to see how we might learn more from one another, especially as there is provincial movement toward an integrated system. It is a really unique time to be working in early childhood research right now in Nova Scotia given that there is so much happening in policy and opportunities within the changing system.”

Dr. McIsaac’s current research is also funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

About The Canada Research Chairs Program

The Canada Research Chairs Program (CRCP) invests approximately $265 million per year to attract and retain some of the world’s most accomplished and promising minds. Chairholders aim to achieve research excellence in engineering and the natural sciences, health sciences, humanities, and social sciences.

CRCP is a tri-agency initiative of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) (the agencies). It is administered by the Tri-agency Institutional Programs Secretariat, which is housed within SSHRC.