Psychology honours alum connects his passion for sports to an extraordinary international career

October 1, 2019 | Health, Science, Sports



Sports was life when Desmond McEwan (BA Honours '09) was a kid. His earliest memories are of playing sports. You name it, he tried it — basketball, volleyball, football, hockey, soccer, badminton, sprinting. The only A grades he ever got were in phys ed, so when it came time to choose a path for his post-secondary education, Desmond was stuck.

Then he talked to an advisor at MacEwan.

“When she told me about sport psychology, I remember saying, ‘Yep, I'll do that,’” he recalls. “I had that lightbulb moment right then when I knew straight away that this is what I wanted to pursue and I would do whatever I had to do to get to that final goal,” he says. “It was simply a matter of finding my passion.”

So it would probably shock many of Desmond’s past teachers when they learn that their former student ended up doing an additional decade of school to get a PhD from the University of British Columbia, and is now an assistant professor at the University of Bath and recently received his Chartered Psychologist status from the British Psychological Society.

From the start of his undergraduate degree at MacEwan in 2005, he knew he was on the right track when he found he actually enjoyed his classes. Working with the advisor, he established a plan for starting his degree, applying to the honours program and later getting involved in research. And his faculty members were supportive of his pursuit.

As part of the honours program, he completed a thesis project focused on how athletes perform under high pressure.

After graduating from MacEwan, he completed a Master’s in Kinesiology at McMaster University and then completed a PhD at the University of British Columbia in 2017. He received a Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship that allowed him to complete his postdoctoral work on collaboration in exercise at the University of Victoria. His current research is on the psychology of health and performance with a focus on collaboration and teamwork. He’s also the sport psychologist for a professional women’s curling team because he enjoys working directly with athletes and sports teams whenever he can.

He says that looking back, his MacEwan experience provided the strong foundation he needed to pursue his dream.

“I’m not sure I would have had as valuable of an experience at another university — this was instrumental for my career trajectory. When I was accepted to the master’s program at McMaster, my supervisor commented on my combination of having impressive breadth of knowledge in psychology as well as having already developed, conducted and written an independent research project. I constantly think back to my psychology profs from MacEwan when I’m putting together lectures for the courses I now teach. I have zero hesitation in recommending MacEwan to anyone who is thinking about an undergraduate degree.”



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