Mary J. Wright Research Centre and Merrymount celebrate partnership

By: Gerry Rucchin
March 15, 2019

The Mary J. Wright Research and Education Centre is celebrating three years of a strong collaboration between Western’s Faculty of Education and Merrymount Family Support and Crisis Centre.

The purpose of the Mary J. Wright Centre is to work collaboratively on research related to evidence-based early childhood education and intervention programs that help children flourish.

“Over the past three years, we’ve built an incredibly strong bridge between university and community,” said Director of the Mary J. Wright Research and Education Centre, Professor Karen Bax. “At this point, I really feel we’ve become a strong partnership with a shared motto — together we can achieve more.”

An important part of the relationship is graduate students from the Faculty of Education who provide research and clinical services to families.

Faculty of Education graduate students who are completing their practicum at the Merrymount Family Support and Crisis Centre

The Faculty of Education graduate students who are completing their practicum at the Merrymount Family Support and Crisis Centre.

Ashley Toohey, a first year student in the School and Applied Child Psychology program, and Melissa Read, a second-year Master of Arts student in the same program, are two graduate students who have had experience learning through the Mary J. Wright Centre.

Toohey is completing her practicum at the Centre and enjoys the opportunity to work one-on-one with clients and in group settings that Merrymount offers while Read feels her research in creating and evaluating a mindfulness program allows her to understand how research and practice are connected to one another.

“It has that nice variant of research and practice and how they can inform each other to create programs or valuate programs or services that can increase positive mental health and resiliency in families,” said Read.

For Merrymount, the partnership has also been beneficial. Sherin Hussien, Program Director for Merrymount has been with the organization for two years.

“I’m very proud of our partnership,” said Hussien. “I can tell the Mary J. Wright Research and Education Centre is having a positive impact on the community. I think our future together is bright.”

The Mary J. Wright Centre has filled an important gap, said Ailene Wittstein, former Merrymount Executive Director. While Merrymount has strong community partnerships, it didn’t have access to research.

Karen Bax, Ailene Wittstein, and Sherin Hussien

Director of the Mary J. Wright Research and Education Centre, Professor Karen Bax, former Executive Director at Merrymount, Ailene Wittstein and Program Director at Merrymount, Sherin Hussien.

“What we’re able to do is take the research and put it into practice,” said Wittstein. “This is a team who is working together and learning from each other.”

Over the last three years, Bax is proud of how the Mary J. Wright Centre and its many practicum and research students have built a strong collaboration between the university and Merrymount, one that is trusting and mutually beneficial. The relationship has helped to bridge the gap between what is known from research and what is done at the community level.

“I think physically having our office in the Merrymount building and engaging in research together as university and community has demystified research,” said Bax. “I hope the community feels we value what they have to offer as well as what we can learn from them so together we can build strong children and families.”