Alum of the Month: Jordyn Monaghan

Jordyn Monaghan stands outside a classroom

January 27, 2024 - 9:15am

Jordyn Monaghan is passionate about supporting the community with a trauma-informed, harm-reduction and strength-based approach. That passion guided her through her undergraduate degree at VIU, where she studied Psychology and Criminology.

Monaghan is now doing a Master of Science in Forensic Psychology at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. We caught up with her to find out more about her research and how VIU helped her on her educational path.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born and raised in Nanaimo. In 2022, I drove across the country to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where I am completing a Master of Science in Forensic Psychology at Saint Mary’s University (SMU). I am passionate about doing what I can to support our community through a trauma-informed, harm-reduction and strength-based approach. Throughout my undergraduate degree, I worked in various roles relevant to my current field. I was able to work in the community:

  • providing harm reduction supplies for safer substance use
  • conducting rapid HIV/HepC testing
  • and supporting youth in withdrawal management and recovery

I also worked in the Strategic Operations Division with the BC Corrections Branch as a practicum student. Grad school allows me to use these experiences to better understand the field of forensic psychology.

Describe your research.

My research interests include:

  • forensic risk assessment
  • supporting successful reintegration for those involved with the criminal justice system
  • substance use and mental health
  • and assessment and management in forensic and clinical populations of those who have atypical sexual interests

My master’s thesis, which is funded by Research Nova Scotia’s Scotia Scholars Award, focuses on psychological barriers women experience during reintegration into the community after incarceration. Women leaving incarceration are confronted with many gender-specific systemic and structural barriers, leading to impacts on their psychological wellness and a continuation of the cycle of incarceration. While women are a small percentage of the incarcerated population, their incarceration rate has drastically increased. Through a mixed-methods design, this study will examine whether psychological barriers such as trauma, self-esteem, self-stigma and loneliness in women returning to the community after incarceration predict reintegration and community connection success. By determining and understanding the psychological barriers women experience, we hope to contribute to positive reintegration that targets and addresses those barriers upon release. This research aims to amplify women’s voices and perspectives through this study and advocate for the need for more support for reintegration after incarceration.

What do you like best about being a graduate student? 

Being a graduate student has been full of opportunities to learn, grow both professionally and personally, and have new experiences. It has been incredible to be surrounded by and work alongside great researchers. Grad school has also given me a chance to develop connections, leading to incredible experiences such as being at federal prisons in different Canadian provinces, presenting at conferences across North America, and observing court sentencing. Work opportunities have included:

  • coordinating an international forensic psychology conference
  • teaching assistant positions
  • working as an educator with the Sexual Violence Prevention Initiative at SMU
  • and research assistant positions.

What advice do you have for new grad students or those thinking of going to grad school? 

Be patient and kind to yourself! This is a time full of excitement and learning, but grad school can come with challenges. Your journey may not be the straight path you envisioned, which is okay and normal. Try not to compare yourself to others or strive to meet other people’s expectations. Being in grad school is a huge achievement, but take care of yourself above everything else and celebrate every step along the way! Everyone has their own way of defining success. As a graduate student, focus on understanding what is important to you and how you can make the most out of your experience. This is an incredible time of your life, take it all in!

Any VIU highlights you can share?

My time at VIU was everything I could have asked for in an undergraduate degree, almost entirely due to my incredible professors and mentors. My professors provided me with the foundational knowledge and skills to succeed in grad school. I am forever grateful for the direction and support provided through continuous office hours where they listened to my ideas, goals, insecurities and tears.

What are your plans after grad school?

I hope to join a doctorate program to further my knowledge and education around trauma-informed and strength-based research. I enjoy working with individuals in clinical settings and conducting research, so I look forward to continuing my education and further expanding my knowledge.

Jordyn speaks at a conference, standing next to a screen

Tags: Criminology | Psychology | Social Sciences | Our Alumni

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