Mannella, Staci

This Fall, Staci Mannella graduates with her MSc in Kinesiology. Her master’s thesis is a socio-psychological study on high-performance, visually impaired athletes and their relationships with their sighted guides. Under the supervision of assistant professor Dr. Andrea Bundon, Staci “explores the intersections of disability sport cultures, experiences of impairments, and athlete mental health.”

Her motivation behind researching this topic stems from her personal experience of being a professional athlete who is legally blind. She is a two-time Paralympic champion who competed for the U.S. Paralympic Alpine Ski Team. As an athlete, movement and exercise played a huge role in her daily life so her research contributions meant that she would be “giving back to a community that was very influential in her life.” Furthermore, Staci remarks that “disability sport challenges us to think differently about what high-performance sport, bodies, and impairments look like.” Athletes with disabilities have been historically marginalized in sports and society, so this research gives them a platform on which to share their voices and experiences.

The variety of expertise and resources she could access in the Kinesiology MSc program made her learning experience fun, says Staci: “Research can be really fulfilling when it is driven by your own curiosities and excitement to explore a topic that is meaningful and interesting to you.” During her tenure as a grad student, Staci has worked as a TA and in several external research positions. She has worked at the GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre and the Canadian Blind Sports Association, “exploring quality participation of people with disabilities in adaptive snow sports programs” and “focusing on gender equity in Paralympic Sport” respectively.

According to Staci, what prospective students may find beneficial to know before entering graduate school is to ensure that they “keep open communication with the professor they are working with.” In this way, both the student and professor will “have the same expectations for the class and the TA work they will do to support student learning.” Currently, Staci is working on her Ph.D. in counseling psychology and hopes to contribute her findings to sports psychology research and clinical practice, specifically for athletes with disabilities. Staci likes to stay physically active by participating in CrossFit, riding horses, skiing, hiking, and biking.

If you are interested in learning more about her research, follow Staci on Twitter: @staciskier96.