Tag: Carrie Kortegast

Working the Intersections: Symposium brings practitioners in LGBTQ research to campus

working-the-intersectionsScholars who assembled at Michigan State University for the first National Symposium on LGBTQ Research in Higher Education focused on methodology and practice.

Among them that day in 2014 was Z Nicolazzo, a soon-to-be NIU College of Education professor who studies trans* collegians with a particular emphasis on trans* student resilience and kinship-building.

Nicolazzo’s memories from that event include hearing the loud-and-clear invitation for another institution to host the next gathering. Three years later, ze and Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education colleagues Katy Jaekel and Carrie Kortegast are the first to answer that call – and with a different and expanded premise in mind.

Called “Working the Intersections,” the second national symposium will take place Saturday, Oct. 14, at NIU. Researchers, faculty, staff and students from across the United States and Canada are expected to attend.

“Our theme is really thinking about how gender and sexuality show up alongside a lot of other identities and experiences,” Nicolazzo says. “We were really intentional when we called for papers.”

“When we talk about things like gender and sexuality, oftentimes particular identities are left out,” adds Jaekel, whose research agenda includes the classroom experiences of LGBTQ students. “We want to be more inclusive, and we hopefully want to generate some new knowledge.”

D-L Stewart

D-L Stewart

Keynote speaker Dafina-Lazarus (D-L) Stewart, professor of higher education and student affairs at Colorado State University, will speak at 8:30 a.m. Kristen Renn, a professor of higher, adult and lifelong education at Michigan State University, gives the closing address at 4:30 p.m.

In between are several paper-and-panel sessions, roundtable sessions and a PechaKucha plenary session, all geared to illuminate emerging knowledge, trends and conversations of LGBTQ research.

Under the “Intersections” theme, participants will discuss the experiences of LGBTQ people of color – “it’s vastly under-researched in our field,” Nicolazzo says – as well as how LGBTQ identities coexist with disability, spirituality, religion and more.

Exploring these topics is critically important, both say, especially for those in higher education.

Many faculty members and Student Affairs professionals don’t put LGBTQ issues up for discussion, Jaekel says, because such topics are often considered “value-neutral.” Others believe they don’t know enough, she adds, or are afraid to misspeak.

“While many people think that because things like gay marriage have occurred, and there’s been an increase in civil rights, that these issues have been solved and everything is better,” Jaekel says. “The truth is there continues to be a group of students who have particular needs.”

Z Nicolazzo

Z Nicolazzo

And, Nicolazzo says, that population is on the rise.

“All indications are that there are three- to six-times more people identifying as transgender below the age of 18 than over 18 – that’s our college-going demographic. We have more LGBTQ students in higher ed, and we need to meet the diversity of our students, faculty and staff in college environments,” ze says.

“We also have a growing awareness that there are LGBTQ faculty and staff at institutions of higher education,” ze adds, “so I think it’s important to not only highlight the research of those folks who are LGBTQ but to also highlight the work about LGBTQ people.”

Both are excited that a large number of students have registered to attend the symposium.

“It’s really important for students, and particularly LGBTQ students, to see what Laverne Cox calls ‘Possibility Models’ – models of who they can become in the future,” Nicolazzo says. “A lot of folks who are interested in doing research, or are interested in teaching, but identify as queer and trans* might not think they can do it because they don’t see a lot of faculty who are queer and trans*.”

“Different privileges are afforded to some and less to others, so we really wanted to highlight that,” Jaekel adds. “A lot of times, we look only to experts for knowledge and truth about gender and sexuality. Students have much to offer us, and highlighting different voices and different positions, we can learn from one another. Everyone can be deemed the expert of their own experience.”

Katy Jaekel

Katy Jaekel

The College of Education colleagues hope their participants share wisdom, gain insights, create knowledge and leave energized.

“Because I know we have so many students coming as participants, one of my main goals is for them to develop some good mentoring relationships and networks that might last beyond the conference,” Nicolazzo says.

Hir personal goals likely apply to all of the scholars coming Oct. 14.

“I’m really hoping that we can continue to practice how we share our information in ways that are understandable for the broader public,” ze says. “I’ve become really good at talking to other gender scholars about why my work matters. What I really want to become better at is making my working understandable to people who don’t do this kind of work at all.”

For more information, email LGBTQsymposium@gmail.com.



How to save a life

NIU receives grant to prevent suicides through awareness

mental-health-chalkA $300,000 grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration will work to decrease stigma around mental health and promote resilience in the NIU community.

NIU’s three-year grant, awarded to collaborators from the NIU College of Education’s Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education (CAHE) and NIU Counseling & Consultation Services, will fund various training programs and an awareness campaign.

“Like every other campus across the country, we’re seeing more and more students presenting with mental health issues than we have in the past,” said Brooke Ruxton, executive director of Counseling & Consultation Services and a licensed clinical psychologist, “and we’re doing something about that.”

Called “B-Safer” – an acronym for “Building Suicide Awareness and Fostering Enhanced Resilience” – the initiative officially begins Sept. 30. The B-Safer team also includes Suzanne Degges-White and Carrie Kortegast, chair and assistant professor in CAHE respectively.

Workshops will include “gatekeeper” training for faculty and staff, who will learn how to identify at-risk students and how to respond when they do.

The B-Safer program also will offer awareness training for peer leaders from student organizations on how to recognize signs of trouble in their friends and classmates.

Suzanne Degges-White, Carrie Kortegast and Brooke Ruxton

Suzanne Degges-White, Carrie Kortegast and Brooke Ruxton

Both scenarios will take into consideration NIU’s diversity; some populations on campus are culturally resistant to seeking out help for mental health issues, Ruxton said.

Participants also will learn from Kognito, an online program that, according to its website, “simulates the interactions and behaviors of practicing health professionals, patients, caregivers, students and educators in real-life situations” through “conversation simulations featuring virtual humans to drive measurable change in physical, emotional and social health.”

Kortegast hopes her colleagues across campus will participate – and find empowerment.

“Faculty are some of the people who are seeing students on an ongoing, regular basis. Sometimes there is a reluctance on the part of faculty to inquire with students on how they’re doing,” Kortegast said. “We can do this in a way of a community of care rather than, ‘It’s not my business. It’s not my concern. There are others who will intervene.’ ”

Such awareness “builds a community of care in which faculty and staff feel it’s OK to reach out to students and resources on campus, that it’s OK to talk about issues of mental health,” Ruxton added. “We’re creating a culture that this is something we’re doing with student organizations, this is something we’re talking about, that we’re watching out for our friends.”

Degges-White, Kortegast and Ruxton already have assembled a Mental Health Task Force made up of NIU faculty and staff as well as a representative from the DeKalb County Community Mental Health Board.

“A big piece is connecting with the community,” Degges-White said. “We need to have community buy-in.”