Dr. Vernescu joined the School of Human & Social Development at Nipissing in 2011. She is Chair of the Child & Family Studies Program (CHFS), and is cross-appointed with Psychology (Faculty of Arts & Sciences). As the Applied Psychology Coordinator she has developed and leads the Applied Behaviour and Research Certificates, anchored jointly to CHFS and PSYC. She has been an Adjunct Professor with the Department of Psychology at Memorial since 2008.

With a background in cognitive and behavioural sciences, clinical-developmental psychology, and applied research & evaluation, she has explored synergies between academic and community sectors for close to 20 years. As a behavioural scientist and practitioner with a focus on improved outcomes, her professional experience ranges from front-line and clinical services, to team development and performance management, to systems level integrated strategic-operational planning, organizational improvement, and outcomes management.  Dr. Vernescu bridges the science and practice of behaviourism not only in her work with neurodevelopmental exceptionalities, but also in her evaluation practice with programs, organizations, and broader systems.

Academic and Professional Interests:

Her academic 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 (an international leader, her work focused on improving the lives, services, education, health, and social programs, for marginalized and vulnerable children, families, and communities); Dr. Mary Courage (cognitive sciences, information processing); Dr. Kim Kerns (clinical neuropsychology, neurodevelopmental disorders); Dr. Ted Rosales (FASDs/ARNDs, neurodevelopmental disorders); Dr. Mark Howe (cognitive science, memory, and information processing and decision-making); Dr. Mike Rabinowitz (cognitive development, mathematical modelling, program development, and process evaluation); Melba Rabinowitz (vulnerable families and communities, program evaluation); Dr. Al Kozma (applied behaviour analysis); Dr. Abe Ross (applied research and evaluation); and many moons ago, key individuals who encouraged her interest graduate studies: Dr. Susan E. Bryson (ASDs, neurodevelopmental disorders); Dr. Bill Thompson (music cognition).

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 10.59.21 PM“I have been fortunate in my academic and professional path to be mentored by most generous and analytic thinkers, creative and prolific researchers, and exemplary practitioners, 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 and sustainable outcomes, for those for whom it matters most: the individual, the family, the community, the organization … the end-user of services, products, interventions and supports, or knowledge … “


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

Primary Contact:


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