By Elizabeth Murphy

Between starting medical school and completing her second undergraduate degree, Psychology graduate Cassandra Coville is having an eventful autumn. In recognition of her stellar academic endeavours, she has been awarded Carleton University’s President’s Medal. The prize is given to the student with the highest standing in a general or major degree program of studies.

“I’m very excited, it’s a really huge honour.” says Coville. “Being able to graduate at the top of the program is fantastic.”

Coville was initially drawn to Carleton’s Neuroscience program to complete her second bachelor’s degree, where she focused on prerequisite courses for medical school. Switching to Psychology toward the end of her studies, she found the easy transition of courses between the two programs helpful.

“I really liked the access to the courses, the Neuroscience and Psychology programs have a lot of overlap,” she says. “Those are courses that weren’t available anywhere else.”

Participating in Hands-On Research

For the aspiring doctor, an advantage of completing her prerequisites at Carleton was the opportunity to participate in hands-on research. She took part in research projects and was able to work alongside PhD students studying addiction in Prof. Matthew Holahan’s lab.

“With everything that’s going on in mental health right now, and the attention that is being put on mental health in general, I think it is such an interesting time to be able to participate in research.”

Looking forward, Coville expects to use the skills and experience she gained at Carleton in her future practice, especially to help patients with their mental health issues.

“In family medicine, you really get to treat an individual as a whole person – you’re not just treating a specific component of their illness,” says Coville. “You get to see the whole person’s social aspects and their mental illness or mental health.

“That’s something that the Psychology programs and Neuroscience programs teach you about somebody before you go on to treat them.”

The Importance of Flexibility

With her academic success, it would be easy to assume Coville had long established a predetermined path – but that is not the case. When students are trying to figure out their futures, Coville advises they maintain flexibility, say yes to new opportunities and explore their options.

“Figure out what you like and, when you like something, stick with that,” says Coville. “Don’t try to do what you think you should do, or what fits on a checklist.

“If you do things that you enjoy, you’re going be passionate about them – and then you’re going to be successful because you’re passionate about them.”

Fall Convocation is taking place on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018. The ceremonies will be broadcast online via live streaming at

Friday, November 9, 2018 in
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