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Student Spotlight - March 2020

Francis Wall

Image of March 2020 Student Spotlight - Francis Wall

Photo credit: Sasha David

Name: Francis Wall
Program: PhD in School Clinical Child Psychology (SCCP) program
Year of Study: Year 3
Expected year of graduation: 2023


What led you to apply to the School Clinical Child Psychology program and choose OISE?

Primarily an interest in clinical psychology. I applied to basically every clinical psychology program that I could reasonably get into. OISE was interesting in particular because of the association with the education and teaching department and focus on children’s psychology. Because it was a part of U of T, I also had more trust in the quality of education compared to other universities in Canada. I chose OISE over other programs I was accepted into because I was already a U of T student, didn’t have to leave the city, and already had faith in the U of T reputation from my time at U of T Scarborough. 
 

What were some of your past work experiences? 

Most of my work experience was through my undergrad lab at U of T where I did work-study projects and full time research assistant positions during the summers. The RA work was the most fun, I enjoyed it because I picked up all sorts of jargon, techniques, and knowledge from the graduate students I worked under. It was demanding, but worth it for the skill building that came with it.   
 

What lessons helped you get to where you are now? What accomplishments stand out to you?
 

The biggest source of personal pride I have is actually non-academic. When I was young, I walked with a limp, and had chronic pain in my hip. When it started to get worse, I had to go to the hospital, where x-rays revealed parts of the bone in my leg had formed incorrectly; why, I don’t know. It wasn’t severe, but enough to make my right leg about a quarter inch shorter than my left, hence the limp. I remember being eight years old and the doctors telling me the bones were going to wear out very quickly, and I’d need a replacement hip by the time I was 16.  

The logical thing to do, therefore, was start high-impact cross country running and basketball. Despite being advised to avoid all high impact sports, I became a runner. Come age 12, I returned to the hospital and they were surprised to find that the bones had gotten better, not worse. They said I may not need a new hip until I was in my twenties. I came back again when I was 16, for a check-up. This time, the doctors couldn’t figure out which leg was deformed. They asked what I was doing; I just said running, biking, and balling. Now I may not need a new hip until my forties or fifties. 

I still have mild leg pain, which can flare up more acutely from time to time, after extreme conditions (sitting for a long time, or training too hard). When it hurts, I limp, but it’s never horrible. There’s all sorts things I’m at high risk for: early onset arthritis, knee problems, spine issues. But that lingering pain I’m grateful for. It reminds me that weaknesses are not things we should avoid, they are things we just need to work extra hard at. I was told to avoid putting pressure on my leg. I did the opposite, and trained as hard as I could. That’s become a lesson that’s generalized to other areas of weaknesses I have. I try hard not to avoid my weaknesses, and rather see them as chances to grow, and prove you can do something.
     

What has made your experience at OISE so far?

I admire the people around me a great deal, even if, as I am a quiet person, they may not realize it. My peers, supervisors, and instructors set a high standard to match, which I love. Our SCCP department has a wide range of different personalities and skillsets, but all of them are successful elites of their field. Not only are the faculty very well informed, but they take student development very seriously. The students are friendly and helpful to each other and always have good stories to share. 
 

What is your favourite thing about Toronto? 

You can find basically anything, no matter how niche. You never feel like you’re going to that one coffee shop because it’s the only one in town. 
 

What does your weekend typically look like? 

Honestly, catching up on readings and work! There’s always another piece of work that I could or should be doing. Usually I’ll sleep in a few extra hours, then goof around on YouTube or some other website until 11am or 12pm. From the afternoon onwards I’ll catch up on work from the week that I didn’t have time for. I try and wrap up around 7, and spend the evening relaxing. However as I’ve gotten further in the program I’ve slowly gotten more efficient at working and keeping up during the week, and am now able to take some Saturdays or Sundays completely to myself. Sometimes there’s time to go downtown to a court and shoot some hoops, spend the afternoon at a friend’s place or lock myself in my room and catch up on the latest T.V. shows. It’s very important to me that there be chunks of time, even small ones, where I don’t see myself as an OISE student.  


What do you love to do in your spare time? 

Basketball, cross country, aquariums, landscaping, Dungeons and Dragons, and having detailed and in-depth talks about movies and TV: which ones are great, why, and how. I also like to cook and explore new food. I like variety more than any specific type. A lot of the cuisines that I thought were ethnic have been westernized quite a bit, so I’m far less cultured than I used to believe I was.  


Where do you see yourself after you achieve your degree from APHD? 

Working in a hospital or private clinic, doing a hybrid of equal parts diagnostic assessments and psychotherapy. I could see myself working with teens or young adults in psychotherapy, but diagnostically I would rather be working with children, to catch things as early on as possible.