10th Annual Forensic Psychology Day @ X


Psychology students prepare for a day filled with speakers, research presentations and more!

Beginning in 2007, the conference is run by students in the Psychology and Law and Correctional Psychology courses, as well as the students in the 2–year Special Concentration in Forensic Psychology at StFX. The day will feature a full roster of alumni, inmates, and professionals in the psychological and correctional fields, as well the esteemed Judge Laurie Halfpenny-MacQuarrie, who presides over the Wellness Court in Port Hawkesbury who will be presenting the keynote. 

The day was founded by clinical forensic psychologist Dr. Margo Watt, the coordinator of the Forensic Concentration program. After assuming her position at StFX, Dr. Watt combined her experience as a Forensic Risk Assessor with CSC and her academic interests to create the Forensic Psychology concentration. It was designed to give students the opportunity to learn about the criminal and correctional justice systems and populations.

From the creation of the initial course in 2001, it has been an expanding program, now with 8 mandatory courses, two of which are Practica, in which the students engage in placements that suit their interests under the forensic umbrella. These placements are often within the Antigonish community, but students may also choose to partake in their practicum in their home communities over the summer and Christmas breaks.

Forensic Student Jay Nero explains his gratitude for the program and how "the experience that I have in the Forensic Program has been extremely formative for me as a young academic, and I feel as though the experience will help in my efforts to pursue graduate school in Clinical Psychology after graduation." Not only are these students benefitting academically, Nero comments that the Day provides the "ability to introduce yourself and network [and] is a beneficial opportunity that I anticipate will help me in reaching my future goals."

Dr. Watt has coined the term 'Friends of Forensics' for the alumni and professionals who have either come perform workshops in previous years to the concentration – this includes, but is not limited to, workshops on Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy, Mindfulness and Dialectical Behavioural Therapy. Many of these Friends of Forensics attend and speak at Forensic Psychology Day @ X and provide invaluable lessons, advice and connections for students.

Along with speeches from CSC psychologists and graduate students, there is a Service Dog Presentation from Cathie Bell, the Nova Institution facilitator, the keynote from Judge Halfpenny-MacQuarrie and an Alumni Panel to finish off the day.

As a fascinating addition, an inmate from Dorchester Penitentiary in New Brunswick is coming to speak at Forensic Psychology Day @ X and talk about his time in prison and his experience with CSC. Students taking the Correctional Psychology course travel to many of the federal and provincial institutions within the Maritimes and have previously met this inmate, "Paul", when they were visiting Dorchester earlier this year. Many have raved about how articulate and well-spoken he is and are excited to hear him speak at 11am in the MacKay Room.

Dr. Watt and current students in the program give presentations in all second-year Psychology courses to introduce the 2-year Special Concentration and answer any questions students might have. These presentations are cited to be the reason why many of the past and current students in the program applied for the special concentration in the first place.

Maria Holley, a third year Psychology student in the forensic program states, "...this concentration was appealing to me as it incorporates many of my major interests, including mental health, forensics, clinical psychology, criminal law, offender behaviour, and much more. I have always been interested in understanding more about what makes someone offend, and to learn about how the justice system works."

Right from the beginning of the forensic program, Dr. Watt makes it a point to note the specific interests of each student in the practicum. Be it social work, law, policing, etc., it then frequently becomes the theme of the practica or thesis project the students later pursue. Jennifer Leonard, a third-year student in the forensic concentration commends the program for the connections that students are able to make and states that, "the concentration has not only given me experiences in the workplace but has also pushed me to become a better student in general, especially with all of Dr. Watt's insight."

In order to raise money for the forensic concentration, the Forensic Psychology students will be selling stained glass X's throughout the day on March 16. The blue stained glass X's have been made specifically for Forensic Psychology by Pictou artist, Andrea MacKenzie.

Forensic Psychology Day @ X provides students with the opportunity to display where they have gone for their placements and what they have been researching. This allows prospective students thinking of applying to the program to get a better understanding of what the concentration entails, the research that students have done, and the various opportunities that can come from a psychology degree with a concentration in forensics.

The entire day demonstrates the amount of work the students put into the program and their research, the dedication Dr. Watt and other faculty members have to the 2-year concentration, and how applicable forensic psychology truly is - as demonstrated by the Friends of Forensics and how dear past alumnus hold the program. Be sure to come by the MacKay Room from 8:30-4:30pm to experience all Forensic Psychology Day @ X has to offer!