Feb. 25, 2019
For Immediate Release
Waterloo – What is life really like for Ontario university students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, two-spirit, non-binary, or who identify with another diverse sexual and/or gender identity (LGBTQ2S+)? Wilfrid Laurier University-led research is seeking to find out.
Michael Woodford, associate professor at Laurier’s Faculty of Social Work, is leading a large, first-of-its-kind study, Thriving on Campus, and his research team is aiming to recruit LGBTQ2S+ students from every university in Ontario to participate in an online survey currently underway.
“Given the lack of research about the LGBTQ2S+ university students’ experiences and well-being in Canada, this is a groundbreaking study,” said Woodford. “It will give much-needed insights about an often-hidden population on our campuses. Most of the existing research is U.S.-based.”
The study is unique not only for its size and province-wide scope, but also because in addition to examining discrimination and mental health problems, it asks about students’ academic development and engagement, as well as positive mental health, such as happiness and satisfaction. The study uses a positive psychology lens to look at factors that can support resilience, strength, well-being and social belonging. One focus will be the role of campus-based services and programs, such as LGBTQ2S+ centres and student groups; another will be policies regarding gender-inclusive housing and washrooms.
“The study will provide evidence to help shape policies and services tailored to the diverse needs and strengths of LGBTQ2S+ students,” said Woodford, who has spent years researching what helps LGBTQ2S+ students thrive and recently started to specifically explore trans students’ experiences.
The survey, available in English and French, launched Feb. 1 and will remain open until April 30. It takes about 30 minutes to complete, though time may vary, and is open to any undergraduate or graduate student identifying as LGBTQ2S+ and currently attending university in Ontario, including part-time and online.
After the online survey, researchers will conduct follow-up interviews with some of the survey participants to gain a deeper understanding of the survey results. By fall 2019, researchers plan to release fact sheets containing initial findings to community and university partners, campus groups and interested participants.
Other than Woodford, core members of the research team are Simon Coulombe, a Laurier assistant professor of psychology, and Zack Marshall, a McGill University assistant professor of social work.
“Our goal is to increase awareness through research and to start much-needed conversations about LGBTQ2S+ students’ needs and what can be done on campuses and in the community to address them,” said Woodford. “We will be working with our advisory committee to translate the findings into concrete recommendations for initiatives that can promote inclusion, well-being and academic success.”
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