Straight from research to career with a MSc Public Health and Health Systems
Food insecurity affects marginalized populations in Canada, but perhaps surprisingly, also impacts students attending post-secondary institutions. Meal Exchange, a charitable organization that advocates for food security and sustainability on campuses across the country, represents the student food movement to improve "good food for all" on Canadian campuses. Merryn Maynard is the Program and Operations Coordinator at Meal Exchange, a role that allows her to wear many different hats. While completing her MSc in Public Health and Health Systems at the University of Waterloo, she reached out to Meal Exchange as their work closely aligned with her research on student food insecurity among Waterloo undergraduates. Merryn quickly transitioned from conducting qualitative research for her thesis to joining the Meal Exchange national staff team to turn her research to action, working to engage student leaders and work with campus stakeholders to develop strategies to address student food insecurity.
Giving students the courage to raise their voices
Merryn believes that one of the most rewarding experiences of working at Meal Exchange is seeing the positive outcomes of the projects she collaborates on with her colleagues and with stakeholders in academia, industry, and the not-for-profit sphere. Interacting with students and sharing her passion is what drives her to contribute to the improvement of health inequities in the community. Public health issues are incredibly complex, and organizations like Meal Exchange use systems approaches to address these problems in effective, long-term ways. As a former student herself, seeing students who raise their voices on issues that matter to them inspires her and many others, demonstrating that change is possible and attainable when people come together around common goals.
“I feel like I’ve been really well prepared and can grow the skills that I learned at UW.”
Turning research into action
The field of public health takes ideas from various disciplines and is what diversifies the faculty in the School of Public Health and Health Systems. With her volunteer work at food banks and a bachelor’s degree in social psychology, Merryn found her place amongst peers who came from diverse backgrounds and experiences. Merryn also took part in the 3MT (Three Minute Thesis), a competition that allows graduate students to share their research with a non-specialist audience. As the Faculty heat winner, she gained skills in translating her research on food insecurity to various audiences. Throughout her time at the University of Waterloo, Merryn was mentored and supported by her supervisor, Associate Professor Sharon Kirkpatrick, who encouraged her to think about how her work could contribute to the real world and helped her to gain confidence in conducting research and pursuing a career in what she believes in. This passion to create change in the community is what Merryn takes with her to continue advocating for better access to food and improved policies for future students.