PhD student, Recreation and Leisure Studies

Haley Baxter

Understanding the experiences of women and girls as volunteers in the community sport context

Haley Baxter hadn’t always dreamed of obtaining her PhD. After completing her master’s degree, she entered the workforce in an entry-level position, while volunteering her time extensively in the sports and recreation sector. Sports had always been a part of her life, playing soccer with her devoted mom as coach and later, hockey. While she knew the job she was doing wasn’t a long-term dream, she knew her passion lay in her involvement in recreation. She started to make connections with people who had interesting jobs in the field and took a deeper dive at the University of Waterloo’s Recreation and Leisure Studies website. Intrigued by Professor Katie Misener’s profile, she decided to reach out. After a coffee chat sharing stories about their mutual interests, Haley stepped out of the café inspired to learn more and gain a deeper understanding of the sport organizations that she was so passionate about. “We really connected over our community involvement and passion for community sport. I could see right away that we shared the same values. That was it; I was hooked and applied to the doctoral program with Katie as my supervisor right away.”

Influenced by her own experiences as a community-based female coach, Haley’s research investigates the experiences of women and girls as volunteers in the community sport context. Haley is concerned by the statistics - females are under-represented in leadership roles and lack organizational support in community sport organizations. She hopes that by understanding this landscape and looking at organizational structure and support for volunteer coaches, her research can contribute to positive change and eventually greater representation of women in community-based sport participation and leadership.

Haley Baxter


Global connections

In her first year of her PhD, Professor Misener suggested that Haley apply for the Mitacs Globalink Research Award. When she was successful in obtaining the award, Haley embarked on a 12-week research project at LaTrobe University in Melbourne, Australia. Working with an international team gave Haley exposure to different sport systems, new connections, and meaningful collaborations with researchers from different perspectives and backgrounds. From here, the team published two papers that jump started Haley’s research. Although her research exchange was cut a couple of weeks short by the pandemic and the need to return home to Canada in March 2020, Haley’s experience was still fabulous; “I made really great connections and I am continuing to work with my Australian colleagues on new projects.”

Haley credits a great deal to her supervisor. “Katie is really supportive of her students, she knows what it takes to create a successful application for research funding and awards. She definitely passes on that skill set to her students.” The close relationship with her doctoral supervisor has been the foundation of Haley’s great experience as a graduate student.

“I’m really grateful that I’ve been able to do my PhD at the University of Waterloo. It’s definitely challenged me academically – it’s made me a more critical thinker, better writer, and a better scholar – being here, being surrounded by people who are innovative thinkers, strong academics, and caring people has allowed me to pull together everything I’ve learned and make an impact in the world.” 

Haley is looking forward to pursuing a career in academia. “I came into this degree being open to opportunities and I’m looking forward to what the future might bring.”

"I'm really grateful that I've been able to do my PhD at the University of Waterloo...being here, surrounded by people who are innovative thinkers, academics and caring people has allowed my to pull together everything I've learned and make an impact in the world."

University of Waterloo