Dr. Vernescu joined the School of Human & Social Development at Nipissing in 2011. She is cross-appointed to the Child & Family Studies Program in the Faculty of Applied & Professional Studies, and Psychology, in the Faculty of Arts & Sciences. She is the Co-ordinator of the Applied Certificates jointly held between CHFS and Psychology. She is an Adjunct Professor with the Department of Psychology at Memorial, an appointment she has held since 2008.

With a background in clinical-developmental Psychology and applied research/evaluation, she has had one foot in academia and one foot in community for over 15 years. Her professional experience ranges from direct client service and management of front-line teams, to the development and provision of competency-based training for professional and paraprofessional service providers, to senior leadership roles focusing on systems-level integration of quality, applied research and program evaluation, process and program level development, and clinical and organizational outcomes management.

Research Interests:

Her research interests and professional activities span a wide continuum, fuelled by an intrinsic curiosity for knowledge and scaffolded by some of the greatest minds in their respective fields; the late Dr. Patricia Canning, R.Psych (an international leader, her work focused on improving lives, services, education, health, social program development, for marginalized and vulnerable children, families, and communities); Dr. Mary Courage (paediatric cognition, information processing, visual development); Dr. Kim Kerns, R.Psych (paediatric neuropsychology and neurodevelopmental disorders); Dr. Ted Rosales, MD (FASDs/ARNDs and neurodevelopmental disorders); Dr. Mark Howe (memory development, memory and trauma); Dr. Mike Rabinowitz (cognitive development, mathematical modelling, program development and process evaluation); Melba Rabinowitz (vulnerable communities, program evaluation, marginalized families); and many moons ago, key individuals who encouraged her interest in clinical psych and graduate studies: Dr. Susan E. Bryson, R.Psych (ASDs research); Dr. Bill Thompson (music cognition).

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 10.59.21 PM“I have been fortunate in my academic path to be mentored by most generous and analytic thinkers, creative and prolific researchers, and exemplary clinicians, who not only supported and scaffolded my learning … but succeeded in fuelling a drive to ask the tough questions, to refuse to take no for an answer, to think outside the box when solutions may seem improbable and hurdles insurmountable, to worry less about the answer and focus more on the process .. the “means and not just the end”. This has translated into a focus on continuous quality improvement in every facet of my work and life; guiding my pedagogy, my research, and my beyond-academia professional endeavours .. As a society, we are far too concerned with outputs when it is the process, the implementation, that will set the stage for improved outcomes. As a culture, we often forget to ask the process-level questions that inevitably make or break the objectives and goals we set for ourselves, our students, our programs, our communities … We blindly ask output questions (‘what’ have we achieved?), without the requisite process-based questions (‘how’ did we get there?) and if necessary, what can we do differently to improve? … how can we improve delivering the programs and services we seek to deliver, regardless of sector, from the not-for-profit to the corporate arena? … this, in turn, leads to enhanced outcomes, for those for whom it matters most: the individual child and family, the student, the client, the customer, the end-user of interventions and supports, services, products, or knowledge … “

Dr. Vernescu’s research interests range from the more empirical, basic questions of information and cognitive processing, including attention, memory, and executive functioning … to applied cognitive rehabilitation, behavioural analysis, and intervention with individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities (ARNDs, ASDs, ADHD) … to systems- and community-level applied research and evaluation, with a view towards process-level quality improvement and enhanced outcomes.

Dr. Vernescu has a special interest and expertise in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum and Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorders. She is a member of FASD ONE, co-chairing the Justice Action Group and active at the Leads table, and consults regularly with family and professionals working with individuals with FASDs.

She is the founding Director of NIOC (the Northern Institute for Organizational Capacity), established to enhance knowledge exchange for and between northern, rural, and remote community agencies. Committed to meaningful academic-community partnerships, Dr. Vernescu works with not-for-profit agencies and community teams to develop and implement sustainable strategic and evaluative frameworks for monitoring processes and objectives, enhancing and implementing quality improvement initiatives, and evaluating and managing outcomes.


BA, Sp.Hon., York University
MSc, Memorial University
PhD, Memorial University

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photo credit: ‘amaguk inn nunatsiavut territory’ // rvernescu
photo credit: ‘raven’ // unknown