Thompson Rivers University

Student Research – Q & A with Sara Burchnall

August 27, 2012

Sara Burchnall is an Arts and Business Administration graduate, with a double major in Economics and Accounting. The Newsroom asked Sara about doing undergraduate research at TRU. Eighth in our series.

TRU: Your project is titled, “Is ‘Happiness’ the New GDP? An Econometric Analysis of Well-Being in Canada”. Boil it down for us.

SB: Traditional economics emphasizes gross domestic product as the primary indicator of growth within the economy; yet, the financial meltdown of 2008 has prompted many policy makers to seek alternative measures of development to help restore consumer confidence and resurrect national growth. Redefining the measure of welfare is an incredibly bold task; in order to determine the feasibility of this mission, it is important to understand the variables that affect macro-level growth and development. My research explores the socioeconomic and structural determinants of well-being within the Canadian population in order to determine whether such a feat can be performed on a grand scale.

TRU: What attracted you to the research?

SB: Amidst the 2008 global financial crisis, France and Britain were the foremost nations to consider alternative measures of development by incorporating well-being into the measurement of national progress and launching a “Happiness Index” for evaluating fiscal performance and social development. With European countries jumping on board with the concept of happiness and well-being, I wondered, where does Canada stand amidst the new policy aims?

Read more Q & A’s:

Rolena DeBruyn, Ecology and Environmental Biology
Tingting Li, Tourism Management
Ashley Morrison, Animal Biology
Steven Holm, Finance and Economics
Paige Hegadoren, Physics
Tamara Bandet, Microbiology
Timothy Crowe, Microbiology
James Pomfret, Animal Biology
Katie DeGroot, Ecology and Environmental Biology

TRU: You received an Undergraduate Research Experience Award Program (UREAP) grant. How did you use it?

SB: The UREAP grant went towards my tuition fund, but if there’s one thing the grant helped with, it was to provide confidence and motivation to push through the challenging aspects of data collection and model building in order to produce a quality paper that would be accepted by the research committee. To know that people cared enough about my work to provide a grant was great incentive; it encouraged me to perform to the best of my ability and helped me to overcome many of my obstacles.

TRU: Are you are doing research this summer?

SB: I completed my research in Kamloops by using secondary data from Statistics Canada’s “Community Profiles” and “Health in Canada” surveys to develop and explain the significant factors affecting the personal well-being of Canadians.

TRU: Has your project led to a presentation or publishing opportunity?

SB: I presented my research at the TRU Undergraduate Conference in March 2012. Well-being is a topic that is applicable to a broad audience, and it was exciting to discuss my findings with students and professors from various disciplines.

TRU: What do you love about research? What don’t you like about it?

SB: Sometimes, it’s a little bit of a love-hate relationship with research. In my opinion, data collection and interpretation is one of the greatest challenges of research. Particularly in my project, where I used huge data sets collected by Statistics Canada, I found challenges in editing and organizing the data in a manner that produced consistent and meaningful results. However, once the results were obtained, it was an overwhelming feeling of victory and accomplishment.

TRU: Who in your field do you admire and why?

SB: I admire the open-mindedness and progressive thinking of Nobel Prize winners Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen, who, for many years, have urged world leaders to move away from a purely economic concept of development and to focus on other gauges, such as well-being and sustainability. John Helliwell, a prominent member of Canada’s National Statistics Council, has called much attention to the matter though his studies and publications here in Canada. After the completion of my project, I was so excited to read an article that confirmed the statistically significant factors of my project with those in Helliwell’s most recent study. And I have utmost respect and admiration for Dr. Laura Lamb of the Economics department in the TRU School of Business and Economics. She is such an inspirational professor and was an amazing influence and mentor to me throughout my entire research project.

TRU: What impact do you hope your research will have?

SB: I would like my research to contribute to the current economic debate regarding measures of development, and help enhance the conversation by offering a Canadian perspective.

Read more from our Q & A series on undergraduate student researchers.

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