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Celebrating Excellence: Dr. Wendy Josephson

Dr. Josephson pictured at PREVNet Conference with Graduate Students

Dr. Wendy Josephson has always been passionate about preventing violence and aggression, so it’s no surprise that her career reflects a desire to not only discover more about these facets of social psychology, but to make a positive change in the lives of Canadians. During her time with PREVNet (more than 12 years!), she has discovered the importance of mobilizing knowledge so that partners and stakeholders can take this information and use it in the best ways possible. This month, Dr. Josephson sat down with PREVNet to reflect on her work in the network and with the Family Channel partnership.


Partnering for Success

Since 2003, PREVNet has partnered with the Family Channel on Bullying Awareness Week (BAW), a social marketing campaign to provide knowledge, strategies, and tools that will empower children to prevent bullying. Each November, Family Channel and PREVNet launch Stand UP!, which is a multi-platform campaign for Bullying Awareness Week. Their partnership has since set the standard for excellence in public awareness campaigns. The Stand UP! campaign features a dedicated website complete with PREVNet-created resources, a national in-school rally tour, and a week of special bullying prevention programming. The Teacher’s Guide, a comprehensive bullying prevention resource is also available to educators across the country. Each year, thousands of fact sheets and tip sheets are downloaded, a testimony to the reach that this project has across Canada. PREVNet also provides input on programming and knowledge mobilization. In 2013, Family Channel was presented an award by the International Association of Business Communicators for their work on this project.

According to Dr. Josephson, this partnership is unique because of the relationships that have developed in the process. Family Channel gives PREVNet’s research a huge national audience, which does not reach just one child, but their parents, siblings, friends and anyone that is watching the programming with them. The project has also seen great success with the Bullying Awareness Week Rallies, where students and teachers take messaging and integrate it into school and classroom activities all year long. The program is especially important for students who take the initiative to fill out the rally application form for their school. In the experience of Dr. Josephson, these students often get really positive support in their schools, and it becomes a meaningful experience for their teachers and parents as well.

The graduate students and researchers that contribute their expertise are spread across Canada, so much so that coordinating meetings means finding a time in three different time zones. The graduate students in particular are full of energy and vibrancy, from which the partnership greatly benefits. Graduate students also take on leadership roles that are interesting and challenging, which Dr. Josephson notes, gives them a foundation for future collaborative research. This project has challenged Dr. Josephson and the team to not only create valuable research, but to ensure that it is accessible for the Family Channel audiences.

 

Making Way for the Next Generation

With her retirement quickly approaching, PREVNet and BAW serve as reminders of the important work of bullying researchers across the country. We asked Dr. Josephson what she would like people to remember about her work and research, and she looked to the larger mission of PREVNet for her answer. “I want people to remember what my research was a part of, the initiative of PREVNet,” said Dr. Josephson, “and through them our country stood up and said, ‘kids matter this much to us; we’re going to take this on for them’. What I did was just a small piece.” She always believed that social psychology had the potential to make important changes in society, but the work of PREVNet stands out because of it’s ability to partner both with the influential people in children’s lives and with the policy-makers who make decisions about bullying prevention legislation.

When asked what advice she had for younger scholars in the field of bullying research and social psychology, her answer was simple: “Do what you love.” This love, according to Dr. Josephson, comes from making a living answering interesting and important questions that make a difference to people. It is this passion and commitment to collaborative research that has made Dr. Josephson an asset to PREVNet, and the legacy of her work continues to make Canada a safer and healthier place for children and youth.

 

Special thanks to Dr. Josephson for sharing her time and insights in an interview and to Linnea Kalchos for her contribution of this written piece.

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