Melody Kaiser used a personal tragedy to redefine her life and find a way to help others
December 1, 2015
Okanagan (Kelowna, BC)
BA Psychology Honours, Minor Political Science, UBC Okanagan (2015)
“University is where I found myself and my confidence. Looking back now makes me realize just how much I didn’t know about myself before university.”
LIKE ALL SERIOUS ATHLETES, Melody Kaiser, a former competitive gymnast, had spent years training her body to be strong and to perform under pressure.
After being hit by a motor vehicle in her hometown of Kelowna while walking, her gym sessions were replaced with long, painful rehab appointments. Recovery was slow, and tangible rewards for her efforts were hard to see.
Kaiser sought out positive diversions to deal with the pain of recovery, and decided to enrol at UBC’s Okanagan campus, where she was granted the prestigious Chancellor’s Scholar Designation for high academic standing. “Rather than allow my accident to define me, my studies were the means that allowed my mind to still soar above and beyond my physical limitations.”
A SUPPORTIVE COMMUNITY
Kaiser fell in love with psychology and political science during her undergraduate studies, despite complications from her accident, which made it difficult to complete some tasks and exams on time.
“My honours supervisor, Dr. Jan Cioe, encouraged me to be gracious, understanding, and forgiving of myself. His support and guidance made such a difference in my ability to succeed.”
The Disability Resource Centre on campus also supported Kaiser through her studies and recovery by listening to her individual needs and making accommodations for exams.
As Kaiser continued exploring her interests through a variety of undergraduate courses across the arts and sciences, she began narrowing her focus. Under Dr. Cioe’s mentorship and guidance, she enrolled in the Psychology Honours Program, and outlined an ambitious thesis focused on successful long-term, polyamorous/open relationships. Her project involved one of the largest research studies ever undertaken on the subject of polyamory.
“I had been advised by others that the study was too big for an undergraduate Honours project, and that I would need to cut out some of my variables to realistically complete it. When I explained my proposal to Dr. Cioe, he was fully on-board, supported my ambition, and used his expertise to refine my own research skills.”
The resilient student knows what it’s like to have to overcome difficult circumstances to succeed. “University is where I found myself and my confidence. Looking back and contrasting who I was at the start of my undergrad to who I am now, makes me realize just how much I didn’t know about myself before university.”
In her final year, Kaiser volunteered with House of Hope, a local outreach program that works with women who are transitioning out of lifestyles of drug abuse and sex exploitation. “It is all too easy to assume people ‘deserve’ to be where they are. To hear the stories of these women and consider where I would be if I lived through a fraction of what they did—it is a humbling and enriching experience.”
PREPARED FOR THE FUTURE
Kaiser won a prestigious Queen Elizabeth II Scholarship to pursue a Masters in Counselling Psychology at the University of Calgary, where she will continue to focus on destigmatizing sexual health topics and sexual minorities.
“Because of my rich undergraduate research experience, I feel more confident and better prepared to take on the demands of my graduate research. Learning from such amazing professors has been a hugely inspiring and enriching experience.”
—by Deanna Roberts