Michael Woodford (he/him)
Associate Professor, Faculty of Social Work
Wilfrid Laurier University 
faculty_social_work_michael_woodfordMichael’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
Assistant Professor, Community Psychology, Faculty of Science
Wilfrid Laurier University 
faculty_science_simon_coulombeGuided 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
McGill University 
zach_marshall_0With 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
Kristen RennKris’ 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
Assistant Professor, Trans* Studies in Education
Center for the Study of Higher Education
Department of Educational Policy Studies and Practice
University of Arizona
Z NicolazzoZ’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
PhD Candidate, Community Psychology,
Faculty of Science, Wilfrid Laurier University.
Lauren Munro headshot croppedLauren 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 Assistants

Christina Arayata (she/her)
ChristinaArayataPhotoChristina is guided by her passion and dedication for student success, access(ability), education, and equity. She is in her first year of the Master of Arts in Higher Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. During her undergraduate degree at UofT Scarborough, Christina worked on several projects which focused on academic accessibility (policy and practices), the mental health of racialized students, and sexual violence. These projects have allowed her to understand the intersections of race, ability, and health within the LGBTQ2SI+ community.

Drew Burchell (he/him)
DrewBurchellPhotoDrew is a second year Master’s student in Community Psychology at Laurier. Their thesis research focuses on the experiences of non-binary individuals in healthcare. They have done previous research with the LGBTQ+ community, and are an advocate and activist in their personal life. Drew loves cats, the ocean, and movies.

Nicole Burns
NicoleBurnsPhotoNicole is finishing up her Master’s thesis in Community Psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University examining the right to free, prior and informed consent for Indigenous peoples in Canada. She devotes her time to working with marginalized communities using strengths-based approaches. Nicole specializes in program evaluation and has used evaluation to assist with community-based initiatives, including cultural reclamation. In her spare time, Nicole likes to spend time with her wife and pets. She likes to be outside as much as possible.

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)
image1Emily is a first year Masters student in Community Psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University. Her research explores the positive mental health experiences of the LGBTQ2S+ community and the self-management strategies these individuals use to promote and maintain their mental health. She is passionate about public education and knowledge translation as a way of promoting safe and inclusive environments for LGBTQ2S+ individuals. In her spare time, Emily enjoys spending time with family and friends, crafting, and cuddling her pets.

Eric Van Giessen (he/him)
EricVanGiessenPhotoEric 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.

Nicholas Schwabe (he/him)
profile-picture.jpgNicholas 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.

Alicia N. Rubel (they/them)
Alicia R Alicia is a recent graduate of the doctoral program in psychology at Brock University. Alicia’s research examines the psychology of social justice, well-being, purpose in life, and human sexuality and relationships. They have been organizing with gender and sexual minorities and other marginalized groups for over a decade. They believe in the importance of knowledge sharing and have provided workshops in a variety of academic and community settings inviting participants to reexamine topics like prejudice and social norms about relationships. Alicia is currently completing a Master of Social Work at Wilfred Laurier University, so that they can go on to develop and provide better mental health services for gender and sexual minorities. Alicia can be found crafting, hula hooping, and expounding on the greatness of cats.

Rachel Yavnai (she/her)
rachelyavnai.jpgRachel’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.


Former Research Assistants

Kendra Hardy (she/her)




Milas Hewson


Jessica Hutchison 
Pic for website


Rayne Jarvis




ailagh (Shaiden) Keaney(she/her)
Shaiden Keaney pic by Prestige 1



Ossian MacEachern
john st




Alyssa Mervin 




Shannan Peck 


Monica van Schaik


Kirstie Taylor