Douglas 360°

Examining how technology shapes relationships and beliefs

By Ming Yeung, Marketing and Communications

Have you ever wondered why the default voice on digital voice-controlled assistants, like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, are female? 

When Douglas College Philosophy instructor Dr. Jennifer Jill Fellows was teaching a feminist philosophy course in 2017 and introducing the idea of gender performativity, she realized that virtual assistants were the perfect example, as they are gendered. The theory of gender performativity suggests that being born male or female doesn’t determine behaviour. Rather, people learn to behave in particular ways to fit into society. 

Dr. Jennifer Jill Fellows

Biased digital assistants

“There are some philosophers who argue that sex is a social construct, and I found that looking at virtual assistants, like Siri, was really effective because they are so obviously gendered,” Jennifer says. “You can’t assign a sex, but people assign gender and use gendered pronouns to talk about digital assistants all the time.” For this reason, she thinks virtual assistants are a great way to show how sex and gender come apart. 

What’s more, Jennifer – who studies how computer and digital-assistant design and marketing reinforce binaries between human and machine, man and woman, and mind and body – has found that tech companies are constantly feeding our biases back to us, which could be detrimental to the fight for a more equitable future.  

“A lot of times people aren’t even aware that you can be discriminated against by an algorithm or that technology itself can further marginalize people. They can subconsciously reaffirm the outdated social construct and gender bias that women are subservient, quiet, polite and here to ‘assist’ others,” she says. “We want tech to be progressive, and not just feed back to us these outdated, outmoded stereotypes.”

From page to podcast

Dr. Jennifer Jill Fellows recording the Gender, Sex and Tech: Continuing the Conversation podcast.

While studying these phenomena, Jennifer and Dr. Lisa Smith, from the Department of Sociology, came up with the idea of creating a course about gender, sex and technology. 

“We were hammering out the course, and then we looked at each other and thought, ‘This is more than a course, this could be a book,’” Jennifer recalls.  

And then Gender, Sex, and Tech! was released in the spring of 2022. 

The book, showcasing a collection of essays written by a range of established and up-and-coming Canadian scholars, explores everything from how relationships change with the widespread use of smartphones and dating apps, to what we can learn about period poverty by thinking about tech equity. 

The book led to Jennifer creating an interview-style podcast, Gender, Sex, and Tech: Continuing The Conversation. The first season expands on ideas presented in the book, in addition to new observations around gender, sex and technology. 

One episode of the podcast discusses how some social problems, such as sexual violence and sexual racism, are facilitated by technologies. For example, in 2015, a group of fourth year male Dalhousie dental students were discovered to be posting sexually explicit, offensive comments about their female classmates in a closed Facebook group called, “Class of DDS 2015, Gentlemen.” Incidents like this raised the issue of what a university’s responsibilities are to safeguard community members from sexual violence online. 

Continuing the conversation

“Basically, I think that we can’t address these issues unless we’re aware that they exist. So, what I’m trying to do is create a space in the podcast for feminist discussions about this and to shine a light on the issue,” Jennifer says. “Automated systems don’t hold discriminatory beliefs, but they can still perform discriminatory actions. And I think people knowing that helps them fight against it.” 

With the success of the podcast, Jennifer has taken the opportunity to integrate it into her own classroom teaching. She says students can read the chapter from the book and then they can listen to the interview. “Students have responded to that well,” she says. 

From fitness tracking apps to sex robots and much more, you won’t want to miss this series of thought-provoking conversations that continues in the second season.

Nurturing Dreams: How English Upgrading opened doors for this Douglas student to pursue a career in early childhood education

Photo of Inga Veclici wearing a blue shirt and sitting outside on a bench

By Angelica Largo, Marketing and Communications

When Inga Veclici immigrated to Canada from Moldova, she wanted to pursue her dream of becoming an early childhood educator. She decided to apply to the Early Childhood Education (ECE) program at Douglas College. But there was one catch:  She didn’t meet the English proficiency requirements. 

Inga took an English assessment at Douglas and was advised to take English Upgrading (ENGU) courses to support her pathway into the ECE program. The ENGU courses are tuition-free and aim to enhance students’ reading and writing skills for success in their other college courses 

She says her instructors were game-changers. They demystified the complexities of the English language and taught her effective communication. She recalls one extraordinary instructor, Daniel Dunne, whose teaching style, marked by humour and personal anecdotes, made learning enjoyable and cultivated trust among her classmates.  

Now that Inga’s fulfilled the English proficiency requirements, she looks forward to continuing her education at Douglas in the ECE Special Needs – Inclusive Practices Certificate program this Fall. 

Nurturing curiosity

Inga’s interest in early childhood education was sparked during her daughter’s time in kindergarten, where she volunteered in a reading buddy program. This experience opened her eyes to the joy of interacting with children and nurturing their innate curiosity.  

“When I first started working with kids, I was inspired by the connection that they make with adults,” she says. “Children aren’t judgmental, they don’t care where you come from or how you look.” 

With the ECE Special Needs – Inclusive Practices Certificate, Inga will have the opportunity to explore her interest in working with children that have special needs and learn the best ways to support them in a child-care setting. 

Connecting with nature

When it comes to teaching young children, Inga believes in the importance of active learning through outdoor play.  She prefers to go outside and spend time in nature as it encourages curiosity and exploration in children.  

“Regardless of the weather, nature should be a part of a child’s education,” Inga says. “If it’s raining, we can bring nature into the classroom and relate activities to the subjects that we’re focusing on that day, whether it’s art, math or science.”  

Looking forward

In the future, Inga wants to venture into infant and toddler care and take the Early Childhood Education Infant/Toddler Certificate program at Douglas.  

Drawing from her experiences, Inga offers advice to current Douglas students pursuing the English Upgrading to Early Childhood Education pathway. She encourages seeking guidance from program advisors and emphasizes the significance of investing in education, as it has the power to transform aspirations into realities.  

“Through the English Upgrading program, I’ve learned that I can achieve anything I set my mind to,” she says. “This pathway has boosted my confidence in English and prepared me to pursue my dream of becoming an early childhood educator.” 

Interested in the Early Childhood Education program or English Upgrading at Douglas College? Visit our website to learn more:

Swimming upstream: How one Environmental Science student is using research to protect salmon habitats 

By Ming Yeung, Marketing and Communications

Kiera Hadden is interested in everything science – biology, earth and environmental – and applies this passion to a cause close to her heart.

Port Moody’s Noons Creek is close to where Kiera grew up. It’s the place where, as a child, she’d release Chum salmon fry to begin their four-year lifecycle, and it’s the place where she chose to conduct research project this year for one of her Environmental Science classes at Douglas College. By focusing her project on the protection of salmon habitat in the local stream, she saw an opportunity to dive deeper into chemistry and water quality.

With the help of her professor, Dr. Elinor Matheson from the Douglas College Biology Department, Kiera embarked on her project. “It seemed like a good topic to explore because I could use what I learned in the classroom and apply it to a real-life project that I’m passionate about,” she says.

Turning passion into research

Noons Creek Hatchery in Port Moody, B.C.

Kiera’s research project has its roots in volunteerism. When the former director of Noons Creek Hatchery’s Water Quality Lab stepped down earlier this year, Kiera expressed interest in the position as a long-time volunteer for the hatchery.

Once in the position, Kiera learned that due to limited resources and time, water samples were collected and tested only once a week. And, infrequently, when water samples were tested twice weekly, different results were obtained.

“Sometimes the data collected seemed abnormal due to testing frequency, but we didn’t know whether this poses a risk to the fish and surrounding ecosystem,” she says. “I didn’t know if we were missing out on getting the full water-quality picture because we were only testing one sample once a week.”

“When I had a question, I had to figure out the answer to it myself. I felt like a real scientist.”

Achieving results via experimentation

Water sample from Noons Creek in Port Moody, B.C.

For the experimental portion of her research, Kiera collected and tested water samples from different areas in the creek throughout March. These tests often ended with varying results, an outcome that meant more testing regardless of weather conditions.

“The water was almost knee deep. I had to make sure I didn’t fall, or my equipment get washed away,” she explains. “Once I got back to the lab, I would be alone for about two hours. So, conducting these experiments was a difficult and lonesome process.” Despite these challenges, Kiera was delighted that the variability between data didn’t create a harmful water quality for the fish. “I was relieved that we weren’t missing out on anything,” she says. “We can be confident that the data we collect is reasonably representative of the health of the creek.”

Like all scientists conducting experiments, solving one problem naturally leads to subsequent ones. “There’s a lot of variabilities in the creek. If you get a strange number, you don’t really know what caused it,” Kiera says. “Was there pollution? It’s not just something I could Google. When I had a question, I had to figure out the answer to it myself. I felt like a real scientist.”

In the future, Kiera’s research will continue to help the Noons Creek Hatchery and surrounding ecosystem. She’s also talking with a nearby hatchery about comparing lab methods and discussing other water monitoring projects in the area.

“I really love the sciences. So, conducting research is something I would like to keep doing. Learning about the environment, watching changes that are happening in real time and figuring out how we can improve it.”

Breaking stereotypes: Applied Psychology alum looks at ways to combat anti-Indigenous racism

By Ming Yeung, Marketing and Communications

When Dr. Iloradanon Efimoff first meets someone, she often says, “Haw’aa, Iloradanon hínuu díi kya’áang.” This translates to “Hello, my name is Iloradanon,” and it’s her way to greet people using the Haida language. 

Often, people are surprised that Iloradanon – with her pale skin and wavy red hair – is Indigenous.  

“When people find out I’m Indigenous, they will say ‘Oh, you don’t look Indigenous.’ It highlights the stereotypes that people hold in their minds about what an Indigenous person looks like,” says Iloradanon.

Different skin tones, different treatments

The Bachelor of Applied Psychology alum spent her early years on the northwest coast of B.C. with her Haida father, European settler mother and siblings, including a younger sister. Her younger sister – who has a darker complexion and long, straight black hair – was often the target of racism. For instance, when the family went shopping, their mother noticed more store staff following them around when the younger sister was with them. 

As an adolescent, Iloradanon began to suspect why she and her sister were treated so differently. 

“We have the same facial structure, the same nose, our features are very similar. It’s just that we have different skin tones and different hair colours,” she says. “I didn’t realize until I was older that we were treated differently because of our different skin tones.” 

Through her recent PhD dissertation, Iloradanon probed a daunting question crucial to Canada’s reconciliation efforts: How can we teach people to be less racist towards Indigenous people in Canada?

How the research journey began

Before she embarked on her graduate studies, Iloradanon took a gap year and worked as a research assistant with the DUDES Club, an Indigenous men’s health organization in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. She helped with all aspects of the club’s research projects, from data analysis to strengthening relationships with elders and club members. 

“I got a really well-rounded research experience from that, and together with the research training I gained from my bachelor’s degree at Douglas, is what I brought with me into grad studies,” she says.  

Iloradanon later earned her Master’s in Applied Social Psychology at the University of Saskatchewan, focusing on perceptions and attitudes towards White-presenting Indigenous people. 

Finding effective education to address anti-Indigenous racism

She continued her PhD in Social and Personality Psychology at the University of Manitoba as a Vanier Scholar, the tri-council’s most prestigious PhD scholarship in Canada. “A big part of why I’m interested in studying anti-Indigenous racism is not just because I experience racism, but also because I’m Indigenous. There’s a lot of misinformation out there, and I want to be able to correct that, so people stop expressing racism based on misinformation,” she says. 

Although studies show that there are multiple education-based training programs designed to address racism toward Indigenous people, there is limited evidence that education can reduce prejudice. So, Iloradanon wanted to find out whether educational interventions work, and if they do, how they should be facilitated. 

Iloradanon spent four years conducting research. She started with a small study where she interviewed eight Indigenous students at the University of Manitoba to understand their experiences with racism.  

Using the findings from that study, she surveyed more than 3,000 undergraduate students, including nearly 400 Indigenous students, to learn about Indigenous students’ experiences with racism on a broader scale and non-Indigenous students’ attitudes around learning about Indigenous issues.   

Her findings suggested that non-Indigenous students were most interested in learning about Indigenous issues through short videos in class. “This is potentially a call for educators to embed this learning material into their existing courses,” Iloradanon suggests. 

Learning historical and current injustices together

Finally, through two further studies, she wanted to find out if non-Indigenous participants’ Indigenous-related thoughts, feelings, knowledge, behavioural intentions and behaviours would change after an educational intervention. Participants watched a brief video about historical and current injustices that Indigenous people experience, as well as individual and systemic forms of anti-Indigenous racism. 

When participants watched the video, their attitudes toward Indigenous people improved. Learning about these topics also increased their knowledge about anti-Indigenous racism in Canada. As well, participants who viewed the video felt more empathy toward Indigenous people than participants who didn’t view the video.  

“We can tell educators to talk about current injustices such as race-based hate crimes instead of just historical atrocities like residential schools. It’s also important to understand how past injustices and intergenerational harms continue to have a negative effect on the Indigenous populations currently,” she says.  

Besides incorporating an educational video into classes, it is also important to Indigenize curriculum for students to have a solid understanding of Canada’s colonial history as well as the present and ongoing impacts of colonization on Indigenous culture and people, Iloradanon suggests. She believes hiring Indigenous people in roles that support Indigenous students and staff on post-secondary campuses is fundamental. 

“If an institution is serious about reconciling and Indigenizing, you’ve got to put your money where your mouth is,” she says. 

Commitment to Indigenization

When Iloradanon was at Douglas College, some of these supports were yet to exist. But she found Indigenous community on campus and is particularly grateful for Dave Seaweed’s guidance throughout her undergraduate career. Dave is one of the Aboriginal Coordinators at Douglas, who provides personalized support and advocates for new and current students through funding opportunities, policy advocacy, community referrals and access to spiritual supports. 

“He was absolutely foundational in my life at that time, and still today. He’s so welcoming and supportive of Indigenous students. I truly wouldn’t be where I am today without his support and guidance,” she says. “Never underestimate the power of community and relationship to carry students through.” 

Over the past year, Iloradanon was a Banting Postdoctoral Fellow, Canada’s most prestigious postdoctoral award, at the Research for Indigenous Social Action and Equity Center at the University of Michigan. Her latest research focused on the identity experiences of multiracial Indigenous people, a growing and under-studied group in Canada. Starting in July, she will be working as an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at Toronto Metropolitan University.  

Though she acknowledges education is only one of many ways to reduce anti-Indigenous racism, she thinks that as research continues, there is hope for a more equitable future.  

“I plan to continue doing similar research to find out what we need to teach people for them to express less anti-Indigenous racism,” she says.

Q&A: A Political Science alum answers the needs in the classroom as a school board trustee

Hudson Campbell once dreamed of running restaurants. He may have put down his kitchen knives since starring on Food Network Canada’s Wall of Bakers (true story), but his segue into studying political science was smooth as butter. And a few months ago, at just 20 years old, he proved it with his election to the Maple Ridge–Pitt Meadows Board of Education as B.C.’s youngest new trustee. 

As part of the school board, Hudson helps oversee the quality of education in his school district. He’s balancing his four-year term with ongoing studies, having recently finished his program at Douglas and transferred to the University of the Fraser Valley to complete his Bachelor of Political Science. Now a few months into his term, we caught up with Hudson about his experience breaking into the political sphere. 

What led you to run for school board trustee? 

I find that people get involved in politics in two ways. Some people want to break into politics however they can, so they go for whatever positions they can as the first steps toward their long-term goals. The other option is to hold out until there’s an opportunity that really resonates with you.  

For me, I was also very passionate about schools. In high school, I was one of the only kids there at the school board meetings, advocating for more funding and such. I felt like not enough was getting done when I was a student, so I waited until the next election I’d be eligible to run in, and I just went for it. There was never a thought for other positions because I specifically wanted to be on school boards. 

What do you want to achieve during your time in office? 

I ran under three key ideas: sustainability, truth and reconciliation, and student voice. I really want us to be working more closely with our Indigenous communities in how our school system runs. And I want us to really be listening to the people who are working and learning in the classroom, whether that be students, teachers, principals or others. That’s how we can make improvements that answer people’s needs. There’s a demand for safer schools, not in the sense of more policing, but in the sense of physical infrastructure and constructing new buildings. And in general, we need more funding in public education. 

No matter what level of government, there’s often a big disconnect between the people and the governance. People don’t know how they can create change. Overall, I’d like to work on empowering the youth and staff, so we can make some of that change together. 

What is your best memory from the campaign trail? What’s the worst? 

My best memory was just getting out and meeting everyone. That was so much fun: going to all the events, going to all the meet-and-greets and round tables, having great conversations with different community members, meeting so many community leaders, whether they won or lost in the election. 

The worst part, though, would be how overpowering it all felt. It’s a two-month whirlwind, two months of holding your breath, walking on eggshells, checking messages every minute and answering questions. You’re always on the campaign trail, if that makes sense, whether you’re just going and grabbing a bite with your friend or you’re at an event.  

How did you manage the stress of the campaign?  

I found myself getting a lot better about putting my phone away before bed. Before that, I would catch myself scrolling through social media for hours, answering comments, looking at what other candidates were posting. It was so consuming, and eventually it became such an echo chamber, too. 

Much of the buzz around your campaign centered on your how young you were compared to other candidates. Did you feel conscious of that age difference on the campaign trail? 

It was absolutely a part of things, whether or not I wanted it to be. The media, especially the local newspaper, really picked up the fact that I was one of two fairly young people running for school board seats. The community had mixed feelings about it. A lot of people thought it was great to have more youth voices involved, while others said the opposite — we were so young, so what did we really know?  

What did it feel like when you heard that you won? 

It was so unreal. I mean, people who didn’t even know me were checking off my name on their ballots, just from reading about me in the newspaper. That’s unbelievable. That’s just so cool to me. Since then, I’ve even had people stop me at the grocery store, like, “Oh, I voted for you.” I’m just so honoured to have been the chosen candidate. 

What has your time in office been like so far? 

Honestly, the board that we were elected to is awesome. We have a great superintendent and great upper-level district staff, all of whom welcomed us with open arms. They’ve given us all the resources that we’ve needed and put us through rigorous training. We even did an eight-hour lecture on Roberts’ rules of order at the beginning!  

Over the past few months, how have your original goals evolved? 

They’ve definitely gotten more specific. For example, when I was running for office, I campaigned on “student voice” in a broad sense. While I certainly had a high-level sense of what I wanted to work toward, I lacked a practical sense of what the execution and methods to achieve that could look like. Now I have specific policies that I want to target to be able to improve student voice. The same goes for my other goals, like sustainability. I have more direction now, and I know exactly what I need to do. 

Your term in office is four years. What do you want to do after that? What are your personal goals? 

At the end of the day, I’m only 20; I have so much in my life ahead of me. So I’m open to whatever comes next. But I’d love to keep working in politics. Along with the school board, I also do constituency work for my local MLA. And I’m still aiming for my degree in political science, so I want to finish that at my own pace, too. Once I’ve served my full term on the school board, I’ll look for my next opportunity to do the work I want to keep doing. 

Setting the tempo: Music alum rocks between the band room and the stage

For Evan MacNamara, drummer extraordinaire, the Diploma in Music at Douglas College was the perfect opening act. It laid the groundwork for him to transfer to UBC’s Dual Bachelor of Music and Education, one of Canada’s most prestigious music programs.

“Douglas was an approachable first step to the education I wanted,” Evan says. “I jumped on the train late when it came to studying for a music career. The program gives you a really strong base even if you’re starting from zero. So I had the chance to build myself up until I was ready to impress any panel of judges, even in the most daunting of university auditions.” 

Evan made an impression at Douglas from the very start. In his first year, he earned the prestigious Marg Beaudoin Memorial Music Scholarship, worth $2,000. He also performed at Douglas’s graduation ceremonies in 2022. 

The band marches on 

Now a third-year student at UBC, Evan’s program allows him to move deftly between the classroom and the stage. He’s getting more opportunities than ever to build his ensemble experience and collaborate with his classmates on hands-on projects. Thanks to that, he’s growing the type of professional network that’s essential for many musicians to build community and find opportunities.  

But his most eye-opening experience happened in neither a university classroom nor a stage. Instead, it was in a high school while acting as an assistant teacher for a choir. Every Friday, he went to an East Vancouver school’s practices to help students develop their musical skills. Though “not a choir person,” he felt his own skillset gave him a unique perspective that let him connect with the students and support their learning. 

“With my general knowledge of musicality, I still managed to bridge the gap and help them understand the principles they were having trouble with,” Evan says. “It landed outside my expectations of what teaching would be like. But that’s part of what made the experience so valuable.” 

Read more: “Top brass: This music alum and her saxophone build community through their sound

Finding his beat 

Evan’s been playing the drums since elementary school, but he didn’t consider a career in music right away. He started out studying information technology at another institution before making the switch. The Diploma in Music at Douglas seemed like the best pathway to a career in music.

From the quality of instruction to the friends he made, the program’s supportive community gave Evan a sense of home. 

“You spend your time  in nearly all the same classes as one another,” he says. “In our time as a cohort, I probably spent more time in our music hallway than I did in my actual home.” 

Though Evan’s class has graduated and gone their separate ways, he hasn’t lost steam on his musical journey. He’s continued to secure gigs and carve out his place in the local music scene, playing at all sorts of events – and getting paid. 

“It’s really cool, that first time you’re able to call yourself a paid gig musician,” Evan says. “You get your name out there, and suddenly you’re getting invited to ceremonies and weddings and more. Your reputation only snowballs from there.” 

Meanwhile, back at UBC, Evan’s deciding what level of education he wants to teach. His instructors at Douglas have inspired him to aim for college classrooms. 

“All my instructors were super experienced. They’ve done everything,” Evan says. “I’d love to be someone like that, ready to teach what I know to musicians starting out.” 

Learn more about Douglas College’s Diploma in Music program here.

Creating safe spaces: How a Therapeutic Recreation student is championing trans-inclusive policies

By Ming Yeung, Marketing and Communications

As a trans non-binary personal trainer, Anna Parrish knows better than anyone how hard it can be for trans folks to take part in sports and recreation. The feeling of alienation they felt in the gender-assigned facilities nearly stopped them from participating. That’s why Anna is asking policymakers to create trans-inclusive policies and staff training within recreation facilities via their research. 

Since they earned their Bachelor of Kinesiology at the University of Alberta 10 years ago, Anna has been training a wide array of people while fighting to create safe and inclusive recreation spaces for gender-diverse populations.

Finding a holistic approach to health

One of Anna’s first opportunities to support their community was by creating TransFit in 2019 – B.C.’s first provincially supported trans-centric fitness program. Unfortunately, shortly after the TransFit program started, all classes had to move online due to COVID-19. 

The pandemic upended Anna’s life. All the gyms temporarily closed, leaving Anna to lose the majority of their work for six months. They began to consider what else they could do for a living, but they didn’t want to completely switch gears or abandon their realm of expertise. So once Anna discovered Douglas’s Therapeutic Recreation program, they applied right away, ultimately entering as a Third Year Access student.  

Anna is glad they made that choice. “What I love about Therapeutic Recreation is that it blends the physical aspects of health with other forms of health. It’s more based on counselling and supporting people emotionally. And that’s what was missing for me from personal training. It’s that extra piece of overall mental health, emotional health, social health, all these other things that don’t fall into the realm of physical health,” Anna says. 

When choosing a research project for one of their classes, Anna saw an opportunity to explore a topic close to them – the factors that increase recreation engagement within the transgender community in the Lower Mainland. 

“A one-size-fits-all approach is not going to be effective because of all the variation in trans people’s experiences, so it is important for policymakers to be educated on the different experiences within the community.”

They wanted to explore this topic because much of the existing research on transgender recreation engagement focuses on trans men, trans women and medical transition. Meanwhile, Anna feels that non-binary people are being left out.  

“The studies that I’ve read are often reinforcing stereotypes around trans people and who they are. They don’t really include a lot of people like me who are other genders outside the gender binary,” Anna says.  

“I wanted to look at what makes recreation better and safer, and what actually works. Rather than focusing on all the barriers that prevent trans people from engaging with recreation, I’d ask what creates more safety and inclusion, and what actually helps people feel they can access things safely.” 

Getting older and feeling less safe

Anna collected data through an online survey of 13 anonymous transgender individuals, ages 26-53, who engage in recreation.  

They found that trans people’s feelings of safety within recreation were shaped by all kinds of factors. One major factor was the environment – participants felt safer when there were universal washrooms or changerooms available. But the study reveals that internal factors such as body satisfaction and fear of transphobia also have a significant impact. And that fear could hinder trans people from using them. 

“On the one hand, they feel scared that they’re going to be discriminated against. On the other hand, they may feel unhappy with their bodies and unsafe moving them in front of other people.” 

One significant finding in Anna’s study was that as trans participants got older, they felt less safe in gender-segregated spaces. Anna explains that trans people’s experiences in childhood and adulthood dictate how safe they feel about participating in recreation activities.  

“People have pivotal and formative experiences around recreation in school when they’re playing games with their classmates,” Anna says. “Very often, these groups are segregated based on gender. There are different changerooms in school based on gender, so trans kids often feel uncomfortable from a pretty young age.” 

“Maybe they don’t know they’re trans yet, but they know they don’t fit in.” 

Anna’s study also looks into the impact of social and medical transition on trans people’s participation in recreation. The findings revealed mixed phenomena. Some people felt they could engage better post-transition and felt more affirmed in their bodies. But an equal number felt it decreased their engagement, and almost as many reported that their engagement levels didn’t change.  

“I think that there’s a common misconception that transitioning fixes all problems. It doesn’t,” Anna says. “The experiences of transgender people can’t be generalized, because many factors impact internal narratives, experiences with transition and experiences in recreation.” 

Educating policymakers and frontline staff

Trans-inclusive policy has been rolled out in different recreation organizations in the last few years in the Lower Mainland, but Anna points out that it’s important to recognize that the use of trans-inclusive policy is uneven within the Lower Mainland and even more so in the rest of B.C. and Canada.  
In Anna’s opinion, these policies often fail to provide clear, specific direction on what to do when discriminatory situations arise for trans patrons. And that stems from a lack of consistent and appropriate staff training in the organizations. 

“If you don’t know how to address the problems when they arise because the policy lacks clear guidance on what to do if and when people do certain things, chances are that the behaviour will not be addressed. The trans person in the room is the one who will be hurt,” Anna says. That’s exactly what Anna wanted to change through their research and advocacy. 

“What I’m trying to do is make trans people feel seen and understood. I’m hoping to educate people about the complex experiences that trans people have, especially within recreation, and try to create motivation to revamp or create trans-inclusive policy.”  

Anna believes policymakers and frontline service providers need to better understand the importance of removing gendered language and gender-segregated spaces. Organizations like QMUNITY and TransFocus provide training on this information, but it’s an area that is under-researched and needs more attention.   

“A one-size-fits-all approach is not going to be effective because of all the variation in trans people’s experiences. It’s important for policymakers to be educated on the different experiences within the community,” Anna says. 

Looking ahead, Anna plans to work as a recreation therapist with queer and trans individuals. Helping them find the confidence they need to engage in recreation and leisure activities that are meaningful to them. 

Anna’s study won first place this year at Student Research Days, an annual event for students to present their research to the larger Douglas community. 

This Sociology instructor is advocating for menstrual equity across the country

By Elizabeth Douglas, Marketing and Communications

Throughout Dr. Lisa Smith’s career, her expertise has been rooted in sexual and reproductive health. Now she’s on a mission to dismantle stigmas around menstruation and period poverty across Canada. 

Sociology instructor, Dr. Lisa Smith.

When people face period poverty, it means that they face a lack of access to menstrual products. This could be due to financial, social or geographical barriers. An overarching issue associated with period poverty is a lack of education about menstruation, which furthers societal stigmas and encourages it to be a taboo subject. 

“In our research, menstrual education was identified by almost all study participants as a key gap,” she says. “They highlighted that there is an opportunity to integrate and expand education through existing programs.” 

Lisa explains that not everyone experiences menstruation or period poverty in the same way – everyone’s needs are different. These inequities are often tied to deeper systemic issues that limit access to sexual and reproductive health services, including menstrual supplies.

“If we really want to talk about what it means to dismantle stigma, it’s more than just having product.”

Steps forward in period equity

Today, the average Canadian spends nearly $6,000 in their lifetime on period products – a number magnified in rural communities. However, since there hasn’t been a nationwide study on period poverty, the full extent of the issue is unknown.  

For a long time, menstruation has often been viewed as unclean, placing shame and embarrassment on those who menstruate. Lisa believes that for widespread change to occur, this preconception needs to shift.  

“Improving access to supplies is such an important first step, but I’m definitely thinking about what’s next,” she says. “If we really want to talk about what it means to dismantle stigma, it’s more than just having product.” 

Earlier this year, Lisa, Niki Oveisi (Master of Public Health student at UBC) and Zeba Khan (founder and director of Free Periods Canada and a medical student at UBC), were granted research funding from Women and Gender Equality (WAGE). WAGE is a department of the federal government that works to advance equality across all genders. The department provided Lisa and her colleagues with $38,765.88 in funding for their project, Menstrual equity and period poverty in Canada: Current knowledge and future research directions. 

This initiative stems from a larger plan for the federal government to provide $25 million of funding toward making period products more accessible to all Canadians. 

“As a researcher in this field, I know there’s a lack of knowledge on this topic,” she says. “We were excited that the government was open to allowing us to look at the existing literature and data, as well as carry out some original research to fill in those knowledge gaps.” 

Conducting research

Beyond analyzing traditional academic literature, research being conducted at a community level has been integral to filling in missing information, Lisa says.  

“Some of the folks who are already doing that work, and are building knowledge about this issue, are really grounded within the community and understand the lived experience of period poverty – particularly those who are most often directly impacted by this issue.” 

One of the organizations that helps address social issues in communities across British Columbia is United Way BC, which has been a frontrunner in campaigning for period product accessibility. Their Period Promise campaign collects donations to distribute free menstrual products to those lacking access. 

During her research, Lisa and her team spoke with 31 individuals advocating for menstrual equity across the country. From these interviews, participants noted that the involvement of grassroots and non-profit organizations like United Way BC have led the movement to what it is today. 

“Most menstrual equity advocates we spoke with were volunteers,” she says. “It was shocking to see how much the movement of menstrual justice is currently relying on uncompensated labour.”

In addition to the issue of undercompensated labours, Lisa realizes that communities face dramatically different problems, so it’s important to decide the most appropriate strategies to get products to people in specific situations. 

“While research participants emphasized the importance of community connected organizations, they identified the need for an intersectional framework that addresses the high level of cultural diversity in the country, the impact of regional inequalities and the need to decolonize menstruation.” 

Menstrual Cycle Research Group

In 2020, Lisa was at the forefront of creating the Menstrual Cycle Research Group (MCRG), a collective that brings together faculty, staff and students to engage in research and knowledge mobilization in support of menstrual equity and justice. 

Free menstrual products found across campus washrooms.

One of the group’s focal points was the Period Poverty Access Project. The project analyzed the lack of readily available period products in post-secondary institutions. The results of the MCRG’s research were undeniable – students, staff and faculty desperately required easier access to period products on campus.   

Earlier this year, tampons and pads were made available for free in all washrooms across all three campuses in women’s, men’s and gender-neutral washrooms. Their collaboration with the Douglas Students’ Union for signage on this project lent greatly to explaining why those products were added to all washrooms.  

“Seeing these products across campuses was an exciting moment for me as a researcher,” she says. “I feel really proud to be a member of the Douglas College community, one of the first colleges to make menstrual supplies freely available across campuses.” 

Lisa is looking forward to continuing to grow the conversation about menstrual equity in Canada and hopes that the MCRG can contribute research that is engaging with and connected to the broader movement.  

During the Summer 2023 semester, Lisa will be presenting her findings at the conferences, the Canadian Sociological Association Annual Conference and the Menstruation Research Network in St. Andrews, Scotland. 

Student researcher unveils why mirrors could affect dancers’ body image

By Ming Yeung, Marketing and Communications

When Cara Paley was two, her parents signed her up for a dance class. She vividly remembers the first time she walked into the studio. Mirrors covered every wall, from floor to ceiling. Like many children, she enjoyed watching her moving reflection. 

Cara Paley dancing in Nova Scotia, 2017

She hasn’t stopped dancing since. In fact, Cara has danced practically all her life, training in various styles before focusing on highland dancing at 12 years old. She is well aware of the fixation some dancers have with developing a long, slim physique — the traditional “dancer body.” Cara believes that the mirrors nearly every dancer grows up with contribute to this mindset, which is why she decided to conduct a research project to find out if they are the reason for negative body image in the dance community.

“Mirrors have been a learning tool in almost every class I’ve attended,” Cara says. “My teachers’ focus was mainly on using them to perfect movement execution. But if you’re a dancer looking at yourself, it’s easy to start critiquing your physical appearance and the shape or size of your body.”  

Cara, now a fourth-year student in the Bachelor of Physical Education and Coaching (BPEC) program, launched a study in January this year to investigate the influence of mirrors among dancers trained in a broader range of dance styles. Cara’s study specifically focused on mirrors’ effects on behavioural body image – or the behaviours dancers engage in because of their body image – regarding eating patterns and habits. Studies have shown that persistent body image dissatisfaction is known to increase a dancer’s likelihood of developing an eating disorder. “Dancers spend hours surrounded by mirrors every day. So, I wanted to see how dancers from different styles perceived mirrors as being either beneficial or harmful,” Cara says.  

“It’s not the mirror itself that creates body image dissatisfaction. Instead, in the dance training environment, it has the potential to amplify the underlying thoughts one already has about their body.” 

Overcoming research difficulties

Recruiting study participants proved more difficult than Cara anticipated. She suspects this was a result of the sensitive nature of the study; that many dancers would find it challenging to open up about their personal experiences with body image and eating patterns.  

“You’ve got to be brave to put yourself out there and talk about those things,” she says. 

Cara recruited six participants in total, all women 24–32 years old, to partake in an interview and her Multidimensional Body-Self Relations Questionnaire. 

After reviewing her findings, she wasn’t surprised to see the dancers in her study scored poorer on body image satisfaction than adult women within the general population. And those with heavy training in ballet seemed to exhibit greater patterns of disordered eating and body image dissatisfaction. 

Amplifying effect of mirrors

When Cara dug further into dancers’ eating patterns that played into their overall body image, she found two distinct mindsets. One set of dancers thought of food and eating as necessary for their dance performance and for maintaining their stamina. The other set talked about restricting their eating because they wanted to look a certain way in the mirror. 

“This study suggests that it’s not the mirror itself that creates body image dissatisfaction,” she says. “Instead, in the dance training environment, it has the potential to amplify the underlying thoughts one already has about their body. At the same time, it influences their behaviours associated with appearance, such as eating patterns.” 

How and when to use mirrors in training

With minimal research looking at the overall impact of mirrors on dancers’ body image, Cara thinks that her research could help inform teachers on how to best support their dancers.  

Age could be a crucial factor in determining the right time to incorporate mirrors in training, if more research across age groups were done, she says. 

“I would think a teenager would be more impacted by a mirror. That’s when your body is changing and you’re feeling insecure about things. And that’s when I think we see the highest dropout rate among dancers.” 

Cara says she values the hands-on experience the Sport Science Applied Research course has afforded her. It’s instilled a passion for research and a quest for her to learn more. “I like talking to people and I like finding things out in areas that I’m passionate about,” she says. 

Moving forward, Cara will be working on a larger scale project with Sport Science instructor Dr. Dominique Falls to further investigate the relationship between mirrors and body image. This study will expand its focus to include male and gender non-binary dancers as well.

Cara’s study won her third place this year at Student Research Days, an annual event for students to present their research to the larger Douglas community. 

An ear for the industry: How this Hearing Instrument Practitioner student is helping others through lived experience

By Elizabeth Douglas, Marketing and Communications

When it comes to the importance of perfecting hearing aids, Nicolette Barnes knows better than anyone. 

Nicolette – who has hearing loss – was at her own hearing aid appointment when she decided that she wanted to help others improve their hearing. She started looking into local programs and found the Diploma in Hearing Instrument Practitioner (HEAR) at Douglas. 

“It’s not just about helping you hear.

It’s about helping you feel able to live well.”

“As a hearing aid wearer, I can understand some of the issues clients experience with their hearing aids and the adaptation of learning to live with them. I understand the struggle from personal experience, not just textbook learning.”

Nicolette explains how crucial it is to make sure that clients are happy with their fitting and that they feel comfortable coming back for follow-up appointments if something doesn’t feel right. It can be exhausting trying to strain to hear the world around them. 

“I think it’s a bigger deal than a lot of practitioners realize. They’ll tell clients to try and get used to the hearing aids,” she says. “But it doesn’t work that way. That’s like putting in somebody in size zero pants when they’re size four and telling them to just accept it. They’re going to be uncomfortable all day, every day in those pants.” 

Not only will people be uncomfortable, but the motivation to do things they enjoy will diminish, Nicolette says. It isn’t always easy, but it is crucial to each client’s well-being. 

“As practitioners, we can give them all that enjoyment back simply by working with them to find a balance that will provide them with the most audibility and create a comfortable listening environment,” she says. “Because it’s not just about helping you hear. It’s about helping you be able to live well.” 

Feeling supported

As a student with hearing loss and entering this industry, Nicolette has felt supported every step of the way. 

“When we test hearing we wear a headset, but that could be an issue for people who wear hearing aids themselves,” she says. “My instructors have taken the time to show me different techniques for using the headset with my hearing aids.” 

Through the HEAR program, students take part in two practicum placements at local hearing centres. So far, Nicolette has completed one of her placements, where she was matched with a Costco clinic in Abbotsford. Not only did she learn about medical referrals, testing and fitting, but her mentor also had hearing loss. 

“The practitioner I was working with had hearing aids himself, and he told me that we actually have an advantage in the industry as hearing aid wearers because we understand the clients so much better.” 

Satisfaction guaranteed

Between sales, manufacturing, clinical work and more, there are many career paths in the hearing health industry. No matter what avenue she chooses, Nicolette will be entering a career where she can truly help people just like her. 

“I’ll tell my clients to come back and see me 200 times if they have to. It won’t take that long, but I want to make sure they’re completely satisfied.” 

Interested in the Diploma in Hearing Instrument Practitioner program at Douglas College? Visit our website to learn more: