Our Team

Karen Lawson

Karen Lawson is a Professor of Psychology, and has been a core member of the Applied Social Psychology graduate program since she joined the faculty at the University of Saskatchewan in 2001. Karen completed her Ph.D. in Applied Social Psychology at the University of Guelph, specializing in reproductive psychology. Her program of research focuses on intentions to parent, and the attitudinal societal norms surrounding the use of reproductive technologies. Her research goal is to yield findings that are relevant for the design of appropriate medical protocols that enhance reproductive autonomy, and the development of informed socio-medical policy.  Karen also has a strong interest and extensive experience in program evaluation research, and has conducted many large-scale evaluation projects in the health care sector. She was one of the first academics to earn the professional designation of Credentialed Evaluator from the Canadian Evaluation Society. 

In her free time, Karen loves to travel and explore far away locations with her partner Jim. They also spend many hours hiking and exploring locations closer to home with their dog Anzac.


  • http://artsandscience.usask.ca/profile/KLawson
  • Ava Agar

    Ava Agar is a PhD student in clinical psychology working under the supervision of Dr. Karen Lawson and with the collaborative help of Dr. Pierson. She came to the University of Saskatchewan with a background in research and statistical methods. At the University of British Columbia, she completed a BA with honours in psychology, focusing on the impact of parental divorce and parental involvement on adult children’s intimate relationships. At the same university, she also obtained her MA in experimental psychology, focusing on youth, deception, motivation, and homicide. Despite these varied research experiences, she has maintained an interest in families and couples and the impact of experiences within these units on the individual.

    Ava's clinical orientation is integrative, with emphasis on cognitive-behavioural, interpersonal, emotion-focused, and family systems models of therapy, and her therapeutic goal is to work with individuals and couples on a variety of broad issues, including infertility, intimate relationships, sexual functioning, parenting, illness, and coping. Her current research pursuits reflect these therapeutic interests, and include infertility, fertility knowledge, sexual attitudes, couples and intimate relationships, intentions to parent, parental involvement, and parental divorce as well as wellbeing, coping, depression, and anxiety and the impact of physical health (i.e., illnesses, diagnoses) on various aspects of mental health.

    Lastly, Ava’s current work on intentions to parent, infertility, couples, wellbeing, and decision-making in her PhD is also a reflection of her interest in positive psychology, which focuses on gaining a better understanding of individuals who are functioning well in otherwise difficult situations. Gaining an understanding of these individuals who not only cope but sometimes flourish in adversity may help promote wellbeing and growth in individuals in similar circumstances who are not functioning well. The main questions that underlie her work are: What do people need to achieve wellbeing? What are people doing who achieve wellbeing? And, how do we promote this in others?

    Melanie Bayly

    Melanie graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a B.A. (honours) in psychology. Her undergraduate work was done primarily under the supervision of Dr. Lorrie Sippola, and was focused on gender roles and adolescent peer relationships. She is currently a doctoral student in the Culture, Health, and Human Development program in the Department of Psychology at the University of Saskatchewan, and is working under the supervision of Dr. Pamela Downe, from the department of Archaeology & Anthropology. Melanie's masters project was an analysis of how motherhood for HIV+ women was discursively constructed within academic articles and the online narratives of HIV+ women, and how these constructions were positioned in relation to dominant North American discourses on motherhood and HIV/AIDS. Melanie's research interests include gender, childbirth, reproductive psychology and parenting, and how individuals' decisions, experiences, and perceptions in these areas are influenced by the contexts in which they occur. Melanie is passionate about both teaching and research, and has training in both quantitative and qualitative research methods.

    Linzi Williamson-Fox

    Linzi is a PhD student in the Applied Social Psychology Program at the University of Saskatchewan. Originally from Toronto, she moved to Saskatoon in 2011 and completed her Masters in Applied Social Psychology in August 2013.

    For her PhD dissertation, Linzi is examining public perceptions of childless/childfree individuals as well as endorsement of public funding for assisted reproductive technology. Her additional research interests include fertility intentions/reproductive decision-making, sexual health education, rape/sexual assault culture, and consent culture. 

    As a program evaluator, Linzi has had the opportunity to work with various organizations including The June Callwood Centre in Toronto, Saskatoon Sexual Health (formerly Sexual Health Centre Saskatoon), Saskatchewan Prevention Institute, United Way, City of Saskatoon, and Saskatchewan First Nations Family and Community Institute. She has also participated in the Canadian Evaluation Society (CES) Student Case Competition for the last 5 years as a student participant and coach. 

    Sarah Sangster

    Sarah is a second year MA student in the Applied Social Psychology Program. Sarah graduated from the University of Regina with a BA (hons) in psychology in 2012. Her honours thesis was completed under the supervision of Dr. Donald Sharpe and investigated the relationship between goal-setting and academic achievement.

    Sarah’s overarching research interests include motivation, persuasion, conformity, media effects, and message framing.  She applies these classic psychological theories to the study of reproductive decision-making. Sarah also has a keen interest in health promotion, the determinants of proenvironmental behaviour, and political psychology. Sarah’s MA thesis, supervised by Dr. Karen Lawson investigated how Canadian print news constructs infertility and how that construction affects consumers of Canadian print news. Sarah also has proficiency in program evaluation, qualitative and quantitative methodology, and statistics.

    Sarah has been accepted into the PhD program in Applied Social Psychology and will begin work on her dissertation in the fall of 2014.

    Kirstie Gibson

    Kirstie is a first year Masters student at the University of Saskatchewan in the Applied Social Psychology Program. Previously, Kirstie has completed a Bachelors of Science in Kinesiology (2012) and a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) (2014) at the University of New Brunswick.

    During her undergraduate Psychology degree, Kirstie first became involved in human sexuality research as part of an undergraduate course (Basic Research Seminar), in which she worked under the supervision of Dr. Sandra Byers. During her Honours at UNB, Kirstie worked with Dr. Lucia O’Sullivan, investigating the relationship between infidelity, personality, and feelings of one’s current relationship. It was during these two fantastic experiences in sex research that led to her decision of pursuing graduate studies in Applied Social Psychology. Kirstie’s interests in research bounce between reproduction, human sexuality, sexual health, sexual self-esteem, and close relationships.

    Currently, Kirstie’s main area of research is on the role of technology on the individual and the couple. Kirstie is excited to start her graduate studies in September 2014 as an Applied Social Psychology student at U of S, working under the supervision of Dr. Lawson, and as a member of the Reproduction Lab.

    Pamela Downe

    Pamela Downe is an Associate Professor of Anthropology, in the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology. Pam received her doctorate from York University and joined the University of Saskatchewan in 1994 as a faculty member in Women’s & Gender Studies before assuming the departmental headship of Archaeology and Anthropology.  As a medical anthropologist, Pam’s primary research interests lie in the cultural dimensions of, and community responses to infectious disease and maternal vulnerability. Her most recent work explores maternal health and motherhood in the context of HIV/AIDS in Saskatchewan, and she is currently developing new research projects on cultural competency in maternal health programming as well as family models of health care. Pam’s areas of ethnographic expertise are Central America, the eastern Caribbean, and western Canada.    


  • http://artsandscience.usask.ca/profile/PDowne