Three-Minute Thesis Winner Update

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AU Faculty of Graduate Studies Master student Kathleen Kelava and Dr. Simon Nuttgens. photo credit:

AU Faculty of Graduate Studies Master student Kathleen Kelava and Dr. Simon Nuttgens. photo credit:

Last month, we told you about AU’s Master of Counselling Psychology student Kathleen Kelava who was selected to compete in the Western Regionals 3MT contest —otherwise known as the Three-Minute Thesis.

Kelava had won competing against five of her AU peers to claim the winning 3MT title and prize of $1,000 (donated by the Research Centre) as well as the trip to B.C. to compete in the next round at Kamloops-based Thompson Rivers University.

That event happened April 30.

The international contest (In Canada it’s hosted by the Canadian Association of Graduate Studies) has candidates pare down their lengthy research proposals to a mere elevator pitch in front of an audience.

At Athabasca, the first-round viewing and judging took place online, while bricks and mortar schools had the “tangible” advantage.

Kelava says experiencing the physical factor of a 100-member audience made a difference.

“To get out there was really exciting and energizing. It provided me with the confidence that I’m on track. It gave me a bit of momentum to just keep plugging away—because it’s working,” she says.

Kelava, 36, from Calgary, presented her thesis to a group of judges (non-science/research professionals) and 13 competitors from universities across western Canada, including the University of Alberta, University of Calgary, University of Regina and Simon Fraser University.

While she didn’t end up champion this time, she says she felt like a winner.

“I was happy with how the presentation went. I nailed it exactly the way I wanted to,” she asserts.

Kelava was number 12 in the order of presentations. Her topic was “Suffering: the over-arching human experience that connects us all.”

The first-place 3MT went to U of C’s Elizabeth Watt; second-place went to Erika Bachmann of the University of Saskatchewan; and third-place winner was University of Lethbridge’s Cameron Bye.

Kelava’s supervisor Dr. Paul Jerry couldn’t be there to watch her short (but strong) defense, she had a welcomed cheering section in GCAP’s Dr. Simon Nuttgens who happens to live two hours away in Naramata, B.C.

Says Kelava: “It was so nice to have him there. It was a connection to Athabasca and specifically to my program in the Graduate Centre for Applied Psychology.”

Nuttgens concurred he was happy to take on the role of cheerleader. He says he was surprised by his colleague’s composed presentation manner.

“It was like she was meeting for a casual coffee or something,” he says.

But he admits he was probably more nervous than Kelava.

“I felt like the proud parent in the audience watching their children in the elementary school play,” Nuttgens remarks, adding: “It was articulate, profound and, it goes without saying, very intelligent in her presentation.”

His advice to upcoming AU contenders? “Just put any reservations aside. Get out there and do it.

“Not only will students gain great exposure and great experience public speaking and presenting their work, but they’ll also broaden their knowledge in general.”

And Kelava says she recommends any of her grad-student peers sign up for next year’s 3MT.

“The whole thing was absolutely well worth the time. It is one of the highlights of my academic career so far, for sure.”