THROUGHOUT HIS TIME AT UBC OKANAGAN, psychology student Hoky Hsu sometimes felt “left out” of his course content.
“I’ve always enjoyed learning about psychological topics like family processes and socioemotional development,” Hsu mentions. “However, as a psychology major, I grew to realize that the majority of psychological research and teaching at large are still often oriented around a western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic cis-heterosexual male perspective. What about the perspectives of other races and people of different sexual orientations?”
Armed with this knowledge and the passion to make a difference, Hsu applied for UBC Okanagan’s Student Directed Seminar (SDS). The program, offered in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, empowers students to propose, coordinate and lead their own three-credit seminar on a topic of their choosing that has been identified as a gap in the current curriculum.
Hsu proposed a class exploring the psychological experiences of the LGBTQ2SIAA+ community from an intersectional lens. Intersectionality refers to the ways in which systems of inequality based on gender, race, ethnicity, sexual identity, class and other forms of discrimination intersect to create unique dynamics and effects.
According to Dr. Jessica Lougheed—an Assistant Professor in UBCO’s Department of Psychology and Hsu’s SDS faculty sponsor—courses in the social sciences, and especially psychology, tend to assign topics related to diversity to “a single week or a single chapter, where they get relegated to the sidelines of the course material. As an instructor, I’m always trying to include these topics in all my lectures while also looking to adequately represent various issues from queer perspectives.”
Dr. Lougheed points to the vast cultural differences that exist not only in diverse geographies, but also in terms of different identity groups in the same region. “The environment shapes all these things so we very much need to explore topics related to diversity. But, unfortunately, our department doesn’t have any courses specifically focused on queer identities and the psychology of that.
“Hoky identified this gap and pitched his idea. When I saw his application, I was 110 per cent on board because this seminar will expose students to really important areas of psychology that we don’t currently have as part of our offerings,” Dr. Lougheed explains.
Through the SDS, Hsu and students explored relevant theories like minority stress and resilience, as well as how similar or different LGBTQ2SIAA+ community members experience their everyday lives as compared to non-LGBTQ2SIAA+ community members. To develop the course Hsu worked alongside Dr. Lougheed, regularly meeting to discuss his proposed syllabus and plan assignments. He was also offered the opportunity to enrol in the Centre for Teaching and Learning’s (CTL) Instructional Skills Workshop. Typically only offered to new faculty and graduate students, the course offered a hands-on experience to develop learning outcomes, lesson design, receiving and giving effective feedback, as well as other instructional strategies.
“The SDS is a wonderful personal development opportunity for students looking to teach for the first time,” says Dr. Lougheed. “It provides them with a whole host of opportunities that could meaningfully translate into skills that are useful after graduation—whether that’s pursuing graduate studies, or entering teaching or another professional field.”
For Hsu, he points to another benefit of an SDS: learning through discussion with peers. “Our current educational structure often has a teacher talking to students while they hastily write their notes, and students are meant to absorb everything from that person. But I feel like there’s another way to learn things; I feel like student-to-student learning works because we’re peers. There’s less stress from students, combined with the fact that a seminar is about discussion rather than lecturing.”
Hsu encourages anyone who feels there’s a need for courses with different perspectives to apply for the SDS. “The support you’ll receive from your sponsor, the SDS staff and CTL will be incredible, because that’s how it was for me. They offered me a lot of ideas and recommendations to ensure this seminar was a success.”
Dr. Lougheed agrees. “It’s not often at large, research-intensive universities that students get opportunities for teaching-related programs that give them such close contact with mentors and faculty sponsors. I think this is a special and important aspect that sets UBCO apart from other universities.
“This program not only gives students the chance to participate as facilitators in developing the SDS, but they also have the opportunity to participate as enrolled students. It’s a unique opportunity for intellectual development on all sides of the equation.”