QriTical research hub helps foster connection, belonging for MRU’s 2SLGBTQIA+ community

March 1 celebration officially launched new inclusive gathering space
The QriTical research hub logo.
QriTical Hub latest in MRU efforts to create inclusive spaces.

A new research hub at Mount Royal University is helping to cultivate a sense of belonging for 2SLGBTQIA+ students, staff, faculty and community members.

Housed in the Trico Changemakers Studio, QriTical Hub offers a teaching and learning space for students and faculty to collaborate and host community workshops, events and other programming.

Launched by co-leads and co-founders Dr. Corinne L. Mason, PhD and Dr. Celeste Pang, PhD, QriTical Hub provides an opportunity to celebrate and amplify the perspectives and work of the gender-diverse community.

“QriTical is a connector – we bridge faculty, staff, student, and community spaces and ideas,” explains Pang, assistant professor of Women’s and Gender Studies. “In our first year, we have really prioritized creating spaces for us all to come together as 2SLGBTQIA+ people at MRU and in the broader community, recognizing that we have many shared ideas, concerns, and research, teaching, and learning activities within and beyond the university.”

Space, and place, to share, learn and grow

The importance of creating meaningful space for 2SLGBTQIA+ community members comes not only in intentionally focusing on and engaging with queer and trans communities, but also in the form of additional physical space on campus where members are encouraged to exchange ideas.

MRU Associate Vice-President of Research, Scholarship and Community Engagement Connie Van der Byl says the new hub will encourage faculty and students from across the university to engage with interdisciplinary 2SLGBTQIA+ research and pedagogies.

“The need for faculty and students to realize a sense of belonging, identity affirmation, and a climate of acceptance is paramount in this time and place,” says Van der Byl. “QriTical will serve as a hub where queer and trans scholarship and teaching is celebrated and recognized as essential to the broader framework of equity, diversity, and inclusion at MRU.”

That interdisciplinary framework is clear in the wide range of projects currently underway at QriTical Hub, including research examining social issues facing 2SLGBTQIA+ older adults and a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC)-funded project investigating the impact of social distancing measures on 2SLGBTQIA+ communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, among others.

Dr. Gloria Pérez-Rivera, PhD, an MRU professor of Anthropology, is one such QriTical core faculty member who is working to examine decolonial approaches to migration including by hosting student workshops focused on the decolonizing power of collective art.

“QriTical is deeply committed to community engagement, and that means within the Mount Royal community and connecting Mount Royal with broader publics,” says Pérez-Rivera. “It is especially important to make space for students and for them to know that there are people who support them across faculty.”

March 1 celebration kicked off spring programs and more

QriTical kicked off the year with events including a teach-in exploring the history of drag with local queen Karla Marx, with a fireside chat with author, artist, musician and University of Calgary professor Vivek Shraya featured in upcoming teaching and learning events open to all community members. A community showcase, “The Queer Agenda” and an event celebrating the launch of the hub also took place on March 1, and the public was invited to the celebration which featured a local DJ, drag performances, and more.

QriTical Hub also specifically seeks to address inequities within the gender-diverse community through an anti-racist lens that amplifies the work and perspectives of Black, Indigenous and other equity-deserving 2SLGBTQIA+ community members.

“... the work we do is attentive to how homophobia and transphobia operate within other systems of power like racism and colonization,” says Corinne Mason. “Prior to colonization on Turtle Island, sexuality and gender diversity were not just present but central to community relations, knowledge systems, and governance.”

Dr. Celeste Pang, PhD
Dr. Celeste Pang, PhD, is a co-lead and co-founder of QriTical Hub.

The importance of a space like QriTical Hub is also echoed by transgender and gender diverse students at Mount Royal University. Mason Weakley is a fourth year psychology major and the president of See Change Collective, an organization that works to provide barrier-free funding to post-secondary students in Calgary so they may afford legal name changes and other gender affirming support. Says Weakley. “We believe in community, action, and uplifting 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals, and I can't wait to see what this initiative accomplishes in the coming months.”

QriTical Hub latest in MRU efforts to create inclusive spaces

The creation of QriTical Hub is just one action in a chain of recent updates that have helped foster a greater sense of belonging for gender-diverse community members at MRU. In 2023 Mount Royal University expanded access to all-gender washrooms on campus with guidance from the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, faculty members and 2SLGBTQIA+ community groups. Weekly workshops, free resources and larger campus-wide drag events like Gender Bender are some of the supports hosted by the SAMRU Pride Centre that increase visibility and connection amongst queer students on campus.

“QriTical intersects with the Pride Centre in their goal to celebrate and honour trans and queer students on campus,” says Gloria Sesay, the Pride and Healthy Relationships Coordinator at SAMRU. “The need for faculty and students to realize a sense of belonging, identity affirmation, and a climate of acceptance is paramount in this time and place.”

With the announcement of new policies that impact 2SLGBTQIA+ and transgender people in Alberta, QriTical Hub is an opportunity for Mount Royal University to emerge as a leader in community-engaged research and pedagogies. “…the QriTical Hub can continue to add to the evidence-based, practice-informed dialogue through an academic lens to support the most vulnerable in the queer, trans, and non-binary community,” says Jill Thompson, assistant professor of Child Studies and QriTical faculty member.

The QriTical Launch Party took place on March 1 and featured dance, drag performances and other activities for the MRU community and greater public. In addition to the official launch event, QriTical also hosted “The Queer Agenda,” a showcase of student, faculty, and community leaders who will share what is on their ‘queer agenda’ for 2024 and beyond.

To stay connected with QriTical, consider becoming a General Member and subscribe to their mailing list by emailing qritical.mru@gmail.com. You can also support QriTical through a financial donation, or by following along with upcoming events and news on Instagram.