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Better learning environment for queer students the focus of new U of L board teaching chair

Dr. Suzanne Lenon has been named the 2021 Board of Governors Teaching Chair at the University of Lethbridge. Courtesy: University of Lethbridge

The University of Lethbridge has named Dr. Suzanne Lenon the 2021 Board of Governors Teaching Chair (BOGTC), and the associate professor has big plans for her two-year term.

“My project is going to be producing a manual called ‘Teaching Beyond the Gender Binary,’ for use by faculty members and instructors across disciplines at the University of Lethbridge,” Lenon, an associate professor in the Department of Women and Gender Studies said.

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The project is based on her experiences with students during her career.

“There are an increasing number of trans and gender-queer students at the U of L, who have really pushed me to think in more nuanced ways about gender as a social category,” she said.

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“They have also disclosed to me their experiences of erasure and marginalization and harassment on campus, including in the space of the classroom.”

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Lenon said transphobic micro-aggressions can have a serious impact. Her research and experience as a university educator have highlighted the increase in these students skipping class, avoiding certain facilities on campus, feeling alienated from campus life, or even dropping out of school.

“I want trans and gender-queer kids who come to the University of Lethbridge to not only feel included, but to be seen in really positive, generative ways, and to be able to develop their brilliant selves,” she said.

Her work as the BOGTC will begin this summer, and she’ll hearing more about the personal experiences of students.

“My idea is that I will build a focus group and do interviews with trans and gender-queer graduate and undergraduate students, just to help kind of set the parameters of the project,” she said.

“I’ll also interview faculty who are interested in this and do an institutional scan of what is happening across the country, and then from that I will develop this resource manual.”

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Lenon said Teaching Beyond the Gender Binary is intended to contribute to work already being done at the U of L to address systemic and institutionalized transphobia.

She hopes that down the road, her work can lead to a national workshop or symposium, enlightening even more educators on the subject.

Lenon was named the BOGTC after an extensive selection process. She will be recognized next month at the university’s spring 2021 convocation, and then get to work.

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