WISE NL Remembers Jessica McErlean

WISE_Aug19 13 021-minWISE NL is deeply saddened by the loss of Jessica McErlean. Jessica was a SSEP (Student Summer Employment Program) participant in 2011, coordinator in 2013, volunteer and WISE SSEP Co-Director in 2014.

As a 2011 WISE SSEP participant, Jessica worked as a Behavioural Neuroscience Research Assistant in the Department of Psychology with Dr. Christina Thorpe where she conducted experiments testing rats memory.


“Jessica was a remarkable young woman who left a striking first impression on WISE NL staff on her first day with SSEP 2011 – she was strong, confident and so eager to learn and make friends. Throughout her time as a SSEP participant, she continued to shine as a superstar. She found her work with Dr. Thorpe fascinating and loved to share it with the other participants – getting very excited when rats learned to climb the tower! During program excursions and events, Jessica always showed great interest and asked intelligent questions to learn more. Bubbling with enthusiasm and potential, Jessica had a strong impact on the staff and volunteers who worked with her” – Holly Baker, WISE SSEP Volunteer 2008, Summer Coordinator 2009, WISE SSEP Program Administrator 2009-2012, WISE NL Director at Large 2012-2013

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“One thing that really stood out about Jessica during her time in SSEP was her natural curiosity and inquisitive nature. She took in everything around her and longed to learn more. She was always trying to better herself and, as a coordinator, it was a privilege to see how much she grew and the confidence she gained throughout the summer. Jessica was such a beautiful, kind-hearted person who took everything she could from her experience in SSEP but, what she may not have realized at the time, was that she gave just as much back to the program and to the people who she shared the experience with than she will ever know.” – Kendra Lester, WISE SSEP Summer Coordinator, 2011, WISE SSEP Co-Director 2011-2013

Jessica remained passionate about WISE and worked as a coordinator in the summer of 2013. From the beginning she mentored the young women participating in the program, sharing her own experiences about the impact it had on her personally and remained in touch with many of them after the program ended. Jessica was an absolute joy to work with, always smiling and bringing light to a situation, sharing silly jokes or cute animal photos with the team.

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“I feel very lucky to have had the pleasure of working with and getting to know Jessica. She was always happy and her positive attitude and outlook was contagious. She was a great role model and I know that many of the girls in SSEP program looked up to her, and I did too. Jessica will be missed very much.” – Caitlyn Walsh, WISE Summer Coordinator, 2013

After her position as a summer coordinator Jessica continued to work as a MUCEP student assistant with WISE NL through the Fall and  Winter school semesters, she helped as a volunteer for our 25th Anniversary Celebration Conference in the Fall of 2013, and in Winter 2014 officially joined the WISE NL Board as a Co-Director of the SSEP.


Jessica held this position for about 5 months and during this time attended the CCWESTT (Canadian Coalition of Women in Engineering, Science, Trades and Technology) conference in Regina, SK with the Program Manager and other Board members on behalf of WISE SSEP.

“When I first met Jessica, her boundless excitement and enthusiasm made her stand out in a crowd, and it was easy to tell that she was destined to excel. When we first approached Jessica about taking on a greater role within WISE NL as a co-director she was seriously concerned about ‘cheating on science’ because of her interest in such a wide variety of topics, which is a testament to her interest in everything that she became involved with and her desire to do her best at what she set her mind to. She will be sorely missed by our WISE NL family and by the SSEP participants whose lives she has forever touched.” – Christine Fontaine, WISE SSEP participant, 2008, WISE SSEP Co-Director 2009-2013, Director at large 2013-Present.

Jessica had an infectious, friendly personality, maturity beyond her years and the wonderful ability to inspire everyone that met her. She took her experience with WISE SSEP and impacted the lives of many other young women by encouraging them to pursue their dreams.

WISE NL is dedicating our new Mentorship Program in her memory.

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Written by: Maggie Sutherland, WISE NL Program Manager