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Associate Professor, Faculty of Social Work

My research addresses the social exclusion/inclusion, health and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or queer (LGBTQ) people. Specifically, I examine the nature and effects of contemporary LGBTQ discrimination, including subtle everyday microaggressions, such as overhearing the phrase, “that’s so gay,” and structural discrimination, for example the lack of inclusive restrooms for transgender and gender expansive individuals. I also study LGBTQ youth empowerment, heterosexist attitudes and support for LGBTQ civil rights.

In particular, I look at the relationship between campus climate and the health and academic success and engagement of LGBTQ university students. Part of this work involves identifying factors that can protect students from the negative effects of a hostile climate, as well as the role of race and other intersecting identities on these relationships.

In 2013, I was the co-principal investigator of the US-based National Study of LGBTQ Student Success, the largest project to date to document campus climate and health and academic indicators among sexual and gender minority students in higher education.

A recent smaller study from this national study examined the relationship between mental health, academic engagement and development, and institutional discrimination among transgender student. Examples of institutional discrimination include:

  • Encountering official forms that only include male/female options.
  • The lack of safe restrooms.
  • The lack of trans-inclusive campus housing.
  • Campus-based health services that do not address the needs of transgender students.

Surprisingly, although the results suggest that institutional discrimination can increase academic stress and disengagement among transgender students, we did not find associations with depression and attempted suicide.

Informed by my LGBTQ campus climate research, since 2015 I have been one of Laurier’s Gendered Violence Faculty Colleagues. In this role, in partnership with the research and assessment working group of the Gendered Violence Task Force, I led Laurier’s 2016 campus safety survey: Students' Perceptions and Experiences with Sexual and Gendered Violence

I am working with the Gendered Violence Task Force to shape the university’s efforts to be more effective in addressing gendered violence and support survivors of gendered violence.

Although my research indicates LGBTQ students experience marginalization on campuses, I find it very hopeful that my research also documents students’ resilience and ways in which students are also resilient and the many ways they work to make change at postsecondary institutions.

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