Luciana Peixoto’s MRU psychology education a 'gateway to opportunity'

Luciana Peixoto


Meet Luciana. Determined. Unwavering. Empathetic.
Hometown: Fortaleza, Ceara, Brazil
Program: Bachelor of Arts | Major: Psychology (Honours)

Anyone who has attended post-secondary institutions will tell you that advanced education isn’t exactly easy. But if pressure creates diamonds and discomfort creates pearls, then Luciana Peixoto can consider herself bejeweled.

Peixoto moved from Brazil to Calgary alone when she was just 19 to learn English and fell in love with all the city had to offer. She found MRU and earned her first degree, a Bachelor of Business Administration — Human Resources, in 2015. She returned in 2021 to pursue her dream of becoming a psychologist, but her reentry into the Bachelor of Arts — Psychology, wasn’t smooth sailing. The excitement of a new educational adventure was quickly overshadowed by her father’s cancer diagnosis.

“This news presented me with a heart-wrenching dilemma: stay by his side in Brazil or continue my studies at MRU,” Peixoto shares.

“However, his unconditional support and insistence that I pursue my education despite his illness strengthened my determination to persevere.”

As her father underwent treatment back in Brazil, Peixoto’s youngest son also fell seriously ill and required surgery, which compounded her stress and strain.

“Juggling family responsibilities, a full-time job and academic obligations seemed overwhelming at times. There were moments when I contemplated abandoning my educational aspirations altogether,” she says.

But in the face of adversity, Peixoto found strength.

“I leaned on the support systems available at MRU — including my professors, the advisors at Student Counselling Services, and my peers, who provided invaluable guidance and encouragement. Most importantly, the support of my husband and kids was paramount. I aimed to achieve my academic goals for them above all else. Their belief in my abilities empowered me to persist, even when the path ahead seemed daunting,” she says.

"My journey at MRU has not only equipped me with academic knowledge, but also with invaluable life lessons in perseverance, resilience and the importance of seizing opportunities in the face of adversity.”

Not only did Peixoto overcome some of life’s biggest and most terrifying challenges, she went on to thrive in her studies. Peixoto earned excellent grades in her courses and was the proud recipient of Persons Case Scholarship, named for the Famous Five and given to students who show outstanding academic achievement, leadership qualities and a dedication to advancing gender equality and women's rights.

"Facing personal challenges can be incredibly difficult … I refused to let them hinder my journey at MRU."
Luciana Peixoto

In her honours year, Peixoto engaged in innovative research for her thesis and gained hands-on learning experiences — some of her favourite moments of her time at MRU. Her project explores the application of exposure to nature through virtual reality for managing stress levels and increasing feelings of presence.

Peixoto says Mount Royal’s educators were “crucial allies,” instrumental in her academic success.

“Attending MRU taught me the invaluable lesson of viewing professors not only as educators, but also as mentors and gateways to opportunities,” she says.

“Through mentorship, I gained access to job opportunities relevant to my field of study and created connections with individuals who could contribute to my long-term goals, such as engaging in research endeavours. This lesson underscored the importance of networking and leveraging the expertise and guidance of those within my academic community to help me get closer to my goals.”

One professor, though, stood out above the rest: Dr. Tony Vernon, PhD.

“His consistent support and commitment to his students made a challenging course more manageable. Dr. Vernon went above and beyond by meeting with me online, even on statutory holidays, to clarify assignment questions and was available to help anytime. He continues to mentor me even after I completed his course, which I greatly appreciate,” Peixoto says.

On top of her academic achievements, Peixoto has been a force for good in the community. She has worked as a crisis responder with the Kids Help Phone, a patient experience volunteer with Alberta Health Services, and a patient partner volunteer with the Canadian Cancer Society. Peixoto also worked with a project called Open Hearts Open Minds, delivering virtual activities to seniors living with dementia.

After graduation, Luciana plans to pursue graduate studies in counselling. She aspires to specialize in working with the senior population, specifically individuals living with dementia. She also wants to provide support to end-of-life patients, particularly adults battling cancer, and to offer them comfort and assistance throughout their challenging journeys.

If there’s one thing Peixoto could impart to current or future students it’s this: you are not alone.

“Encountering hardships can feel overwhelming and discouraging. I hope students know that at MRU, there is a supportive community ready to assist. It might be tough to reach out for help initially, but once you do, you will find clarity and be better equipped to manage your challenges while prioritizing your goals. Whenever you are ready, share your struggles with professors and counsellors. They are often more understanding and supportive than you might expect.”

For Peixoto, MRU’s educational philosophy of “Opening Minds, Changing Lives” rings true. She wraps up her time at MRU with a bachelor’s in psychology and the skills to make real and positive impacts on the people around her.