Academic Research Team
Michael Woodford (he/him)
Professor, Faculty of Social Work
Wilfrid Laurier University
Michael’s research addresses the social exclusion and inclusion of LGBTQ2S+ people, primarily focusing on university students. Much of his research examines the relationship between campus climate, including often-unintentional microaggressions (e.g. “you’re not a real woman” said to a transwoman) and outcomes, such as mental health and academic development. Wanting to foster students’ resilience to the negative effects of discrimination, he also studies the factors that promote strength and wellbeing in the context of adversity; this includes institutional factors, such as campus policies and services for LGBTQ2S+ students.
This project builds on Michael’s previous research on campus climate, which was conducted in the United States while he was a faculty member at the University of Michigan. In 2013, Michael and Kris Renn conducted the National Study of LGBTQ Student Success.
Simon Coulombe (he/him)
Assistant Professor, Community Psychology, Faculty of Science
Wilfrid Laurier University
Guided by positive psychology and socio-ecological approaches, Simon’s research examines resilience in LGBTQ2S+ individuals and people from other stigmatized communities, exploring how they can achieve wellbeing despite challenges and discrimination. Simon’s work contributes to understanding and reducing inequities faced by communities in stigmatizing circumstances (e.g., LGBTQ2S+ people with mental disorders or disabilities, people living in public housing, etc.) by considering the social and ecological factors that impact their well-being.
Simon’s work supports the empowerment of these communities by ensuring that his research can yield positive impact – for participants, researchers, and practitioners.
Zack Marshall (he/him)
Assistant Professor, School of Social Work
With over 14 years experience in the areas of health and mental health, Zack’s practice has focused on working with sexual and gender minority youth and communities, people labelled with intellectual disabilities, and people who use drugs. Committed to transformative social change, his interdisciplinary program of research explores ethics, engagement, and knowledge synthesis with respect to marginalized and underrepresented communities.
Kristen Renn (she/her; they/them)
Professor of Higher, Adult & Lifelong Education,
Department of Educational Administration; College of Education
Michigan State University
Kris’ research focuses on the intersection of student success with issues of identity in higher education, including studies of mixed-race identities, LGBTQ2S+ students and leaders of identity-based student organizations. Kris is co-principal investigator of the National Study of LGBTQ Student Success.
Z Nicolazzo (she/her)
Assistant Professor, Trans* Studies in Education
Center for the Study of Higher Education
Department of Educational Policy Studies and Practice
University of Arizona
Z’s research focuses on mapping gender across the college/university contexts, with particular focus on trans* student resilience and kinship building. Hir specific areas of interest include: gender in higher education, research methodologies, and trans* studies. In particular, Z’s research highlights students’ experiences of the intersections of race, disability, and gender identity. Z also writes about the use of alternative methodologies, epistemologies, and representations of knowledge. Z is originally from New Hampshire, and in hir free time, Z enjoys cycling, reading, and spending time with hir 11 year old Westie, Grrtrude Anne.
Lauren Munro (she/her)
PhD Candidate, Community Psychology,
Faculty of Science, Wilfrid Laurier University
Lauren is an activist-academic, artist, and writer whose personal and professional life is driven by a commitment to social justice. She has collaborated on various projects related to the health and well-being of LGBTQ2S+ youth, including research focused on microaggressions (with Michael Woodford), sexual health and HIV vulnerability, challenges facing LGBTQ2S+ immigrant and refugee youth, and Gay-Straight Alliances. Lauren strongly believes in the importance of integrating academia and grassroots activism to create projects that push boundaries and challenge the status quo. Beyond her work on LGBTQ2S+ health, Lauren has been involved in projects that cut across a variety of disciplines including Fat Studies, Sexual Health and Reproductive Justice, Mad Studies, the Social Determinants of Health, and Disability Justice.
Current Research Staff
The Thriving on Campus research team is dedicated to training and mentoring students at all levels in LGBTQ2S+ research.
Nathan R. G. Barnett (he/him)
Nathan is an openly queer trans man, living and working on the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation, and is a recent graduate of Trent University’s Bachelor of Social Work. Throughout his degree, Nathan has been dedicated to learning and teaching about queer experiences in post-secondary, such as by running Queering Academia events on campus to highlight the lack of queer voices in post-secondary and by being involved in his student union, where he continues to work as Vice President of University Affairs. In his spare time, Nathan enjoys deconstructing pop culture and sewing.
Kelly Bowman (she/her; they/them)
Kelly is a Masters of Social Work Student at Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU) who holds identities and experiences relevant to the Thriving Project. She also holds an HBA in Media & the Public Interest from Western University and three post-graduate certificates: Community Economic Development from Simon Fraser University, Grant Writing from Dalhousie University, and Program Evaluation from WLU. Kelly spent several years completing government-funded research (federal, provincial and municipal) to capture the needs of excluded and targeted communities (often but not exclusively LGBTQ2S+ folks) to measure program impact and improve interventions– both in Canada and abroad. Today, they are a practicing mental health professional who specializes in work with young adults and pulls on their experience in the post-secondary, health-care and non-profit contexts. Kelly is thrilled to assist with the Thriving Project’s knowledge translation strategy and looks forward to implementing key findings in her own work.
Katie Cook (they/them; she/her)
Katie is a PhD candidate in Wilfrid Laurier University’s Community Psychology program. Katie’s work looks at how marginalized – e.g. disabled, racialized, fat, queer – bodies are constructed and othered in various social contexts. Currently, Katie’s research is focused on using narrative and arts-based methods to understand the intergenerational effects of weight stigma. Katie is a queer, fat activist who resides in Kitchener, Ontario with their cat Zoey.
Emily Cox (she/her)
Emily is a recent graduate of the Masters program in Community Psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University. Her research explored the well-being and community experiences of 2SLGBTQ+ newcomers and the self-management strategies these individuals use to promote and maintain their well-being. She is passionate about public education and knowledge translation as a way of promoting safe and inclusive environments for 2SLGBTQ+ individuals. In her spare time, Emily enjoys spending time with family and friends, crafting, and cuddling her pets.
Charlie Davis (he/him; they/them)
Charlie Davis is a fourth-year doctoral student in Community Psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University. His dissertation research explores the history of trans-inclusive legislation changes in Canada, with a particular interest in examining the problem-definition stage of the policy process and the discourses used in the media. Charlie is generally interested in policy analysis and understanding the interaction between policies, procedures and day-to-day enactments of human rights. He is a trans activist involved in many community-capacity building projects within the local community.
Eric Van Giessen (he/him)
Eric is a first-year doctoral student in Sociology at York University. His research interests include critical sexuality studies, lived religion, and queer methodologies, including community-based research and arts-based methods. In 2016, Eric completed an MA in Social Justice & Community Engagement at Laurier. For his MA research, he facilitated the curation of a queer collaborative poetry collection, Queerly Faithful, which explored experiences of belonging and identity in Christian faith communities of five LGBTQ+ Christians. He intends to continue this area of research in his PhD. Eric has a passion for community and justice. In his free time, he likes to walk his puppy, Mabel Rose, read fiction and poetry, share/cook meals with friends and chosen family, and soak up sunshine wherever he can find it.
Shannon Halligan (she/her)
Shannon is currently completing her final semester in Wilfrid Laurier University’s Master of Social Work program. She has long been inspired by the strength and resilience of friends who are members of the LGBTQ2S+ community, despite regular experiences of explicit and implicit discrimination. From a young age, Shannon has been eager to learn how to become an effective ally for the LGBTQ2S+ community and advocate for social change. This early interest in social justice has inspired her to pursue a career in social work. In her spare time, Shannon enjoys hiking, cooking, and spending time with her dog/sidekick, Frankie.
Marianna Healey (she/her)
Marianna is a doctoral student at Wilfrid Laurier University in the Faculty of Social Work. She is passionate about using research as an advocacy tool to promote social change. Marianna has previous experience supporting the dissemination of research findings to diverse audiences. She hopes to use her knowledge, translation skills and expertise to help the findings of the Thriving on Campus project make meaningful positive changes for LGBTQ2S+ students across the province. She is grateful to be involved in this equity-focused research!
Matthew Horseman (he/him)
Matthew is a fourth-year Bachelor of Social Work student at Wilfrid Laurier University, and a Child and Youth Care graduate from Loyalist College. Matthew is completing his final placement with the Thriving on Campus team before applying to Master’s level studies. Matthew is passionate about improving the experiences of marginalized children and youth within the education and child welfare sectors, including LGBTQ2S+ children and youth, and those living with disabilities. In his spare time, Matthew enjoys reading fiction, experiencing nature, cooking, and spending time with friends and family.
Harrison Oakes (he/him)
Harrison is a Vanier Scholar and recent graduate of the doctoral program in social psychology at the University of Waterloo. He is passionate about social justice and addressing issues of inequality through his research. Having experienced a paradigm shift during his PhD, Harrison strives to apply critical theory to his psychological training to push his field’s boundaries into more equitable territory. His multi-method and interdisciplinary research has focused on LGBTQ-phobic bullying, the Supreme Court of United States’ 2015 ruling on same-sex marriage, queer men’s use of geo-social networking apps like Grindr and SCRUFF, and the impact of homophobic social environments on suspicions of boys’ sexuality. To further develop his training and expertise in social justice oriented scholarship, Harrison plans to begin his MSW in 2021.
Sophie Peckford (she/her)
Sophie is currently pursuing a bilingual iBA in International Studies with a certificate in Sexuality Studies at Glendon Campus of York University. Upon graduation, she plans to pursue a Master of Social Work. Sophie is providing English to French translations for the Thriving on Campus Website. In addition to her studies, she enjoys volunteering at Sunnybrook Hospital and being involved with the International Studies Student Association as President.
Nicholas Schwabe (he/him)
Nicholas initially joined the Thriving on Campus team as a social work placement student, completing his Laurier MSW advanced standing practicum with the project. Following placement, he became the study coordinator, a position he held until October 2019. He is originally from Sudbury, where he attended Laurentian University. He is interested in examining the experiences of LGBTQ2S+ peoples, discourses of mental illness, work and society, and innovative research methods. Previously, he has been involved with occupational health research and arts-based mindfulness practices. He is currently quality assurance lead at Compass / Boussole / Akii-Izhinoogan, the lead child and youth mental health agency in the Sudbury-Manitoulin district.
Tin is a fourth-year doctoral candidate at Wilfrid Laurier University in the Faculty of Social Work. His dissertation research examines intersectional discrimination, resilience, and resistance of LGBTQ2S+ people and their social well-being and mental health within LGBTQ2S+ leisure spaces. He seeks to embed health equity within his work to enhance the well-being of marginalized populations.
Maja Turkovic (she/her)
During Maja’s undergraduate studies at Western University, she stumbled upon sexuality studies and ended up majoring in it. Maja was fascinated by all aspects of sex, gender, and sexuality, from the personal to the political. Her program adopted a feminist lens, thus examining these topics with a focus on power relations. The extent to which human reproductive organs, gender identity and romantic/sexual interests influence a person’s social status, understanding of self, and quality of life is significant and unmerited. This realization awakened Maja’s desire to both personally and professionally promote the acceptance and full inclusion of the LGBTQAI2+ community in society. Maja am currently in Laurier’s MSW program, completing her practicum under the supervision of Michael Woodford with the Thriving team. Maja is grateful to have an opportunity to work with Michael and is excited to be a part of this team. Maja holds a minor in Psychology and an advanced Diploma from Fanshawe College in Business Administration, Leadership and Management. Maja speaks Serbo-Croatian/Bosnian, German and English.
Rachel Yavnai (she/her)
Rachel’s interest in storytelling – particularly the way in which personal narratives can empower and convey the multiplicity of human experiences – is what first brought her to this project. Her past work concerning social exclusion, visibility, and identity negotiation among religious and sexual minorities, as well as her advocacy efforts within the Kitchener-Waterloo LGBTQ2SI+ community, has affirmed her dedication to anti-oppression and inclusive policy development. When she’s not reading, Rachel likes writing short stories.
Farhana Zafar (she/her)
Farhana is a second-year undergraduate student who is working towards a Bachelor of Applied Science in Justice Studies as well as a diploma in Police Foundations. She chose this program specifically as she wants a better understanding of why the Justice system is the way it is and what improvements need to be made for the justice system to work for all marginalized people. Farhana has a passion for social justice and has volunteered and worked with various organizations including, Regeneration Outreach, Peel Committee Against Women Abuse, Humanity First, Interim Place, and Canadian Food for Children, Peel Public Health, OUTline. Besides volunteering Farhana enjoys learning about politics as it allows her to understand the world around her better.
Former Research Staff
|Christina Arayata (she/her) ||Drew Burchell (he/him)|
|Nicole Burns (she/her) ||Rashyka Ford (she/her)|
|Kendra Hardy (she/her)||Milas Hewson (they/them) |
| Jessica Hutchison (she/her) || Rayne Jarvis (they/them) |
|Shailagh (Shaiden) Keaney (she/her)||Ossian MacEachern (they/them)|
|Alyssa Mervin (she/her) ||Shannan Peck (she/her)|
| Alicia N. Rubel (they/them)||Monica van Schaik (she/her)|
|Kirstie Taylor (she/her)||Noni Vatish (she/her) |