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In this series we profile some of the Positive Space Resource Persons who work at UBC Okanagan.

Check back to this page every month to read new stories from Resource Persons across campus.

Our Stories:

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Blake Edwards

Blake is the 2016-2017 president of the UBC Students’ Union Okanagan.


Introduce yourself. Tell us about your work.

My name is Blake Edwards and I am an alumnus of this campus. I am also the current President of the UBCSUO.

If you weren’t in the field you are in now, what career role might have interested you?

I love politics, so the role I’m in now is very fitting. I would, however, love to work in Public Policy.

What values inform the work that you do? The choices that you make?

The values specific to Positive Space would be inclusivity, accessibility, support, fairness, and respect.

What is your motto?

The obstacle is the way

What interested you to take Positive Space training?

I think it is always important to be conscience of the things you do. Positive Space training has opened up channels of conversation about the way the UBCSUO presents itself to all students and ensures a safe place for all students.

What was the most valuable thing that you learned from the Positive Space workshop?

Language. I have always been fascinated by language, as it is a tool that defines and redefines our world. When we were in the training, each of us has a different definition of terms, which provides the insight of multiple perspectives on the same topic.

As a Positive Space resource person how has the training helped you in your work? Personal life?

It has helped with being more conscientious of the little things I say or do.

Why should people at UBC take a Positive Space workshop?

It’s a platform for learning and discussing.

What additional training would you like to have to assist you as a Positive Space resource person?

I think the modern world of the Internet has helped immensely with this. It would be nice to become familiarized with community resources.

How do you think Positive Space has influenced the campus community?

It has provided avenues for students to be themselves, free of judgement or prejudices.

Which LGBTTQIA+ activist/ actor/ public figure/ singer do you admire? Why?

Neil Patrick Harris. He doesn’t conform to preconceived notions of what a gay man “should” be. He is a role model for many LGBTTQIA+ people. Plus, his children are adorable!

What was the last TV show or film you watched that had a member of the queer community as the lead?

It was probably the Netflix original Sense 8.

Has Positive Space training changed the way you do things/ think about things? If so, how?

I think it has made me more conscientious, especially for my privilege.

What does a positive space at UBC look like?

Universal inclusivity.

How did you find out about the Positive Space training?

Equity and Inclusion facilitator, Jenica Frisque.

In facilitating the Positive Space training, was there ever anything that surprised you?

Not yet![/column]

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Leyton Schnellert

Leyton is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan Campus.


Introduce yourself. Tell us about your work.

I am an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Education at The University of British Columbia – Okanagan. Courses I teach include Theory and Practice in Inclusive Education, The Developing Learner, Language and Literacy in Education, and Middle School Integrated Methods. My teaching and research attends to how teachers and teaching and learners and learning can mindfully embrace student diversity, inclusive education, self- and co-regulation and pedagogical practices that draw from students’ funds of knowledge to build participatory, collaborative, and culturally responsive learning communities (i.e., https://www.academia.edu/23378662/Literacies_in_Action). I am the Pedagogy and Participation research cluster lead in UBCO’s Institute for Community Engaged Research. My scholarship takes up pedagogy and related research working from epistemological orientations to living and learning that are relational and community-honouring.

If you weren’t in the field you are in now, what career role might have interested you?

Before moving into academia I was middle and secondary years classroom teacher and learning resource teacher K-12. I loved this work and still miss it. In my 20s and 30s I volunteered with YouthCO AIDS Society and AIDS Vancouver. My involvement included participation in and facilitation of YouthCO’s speakers bureau and popular theatre troupe, I volunteered in AIDS Vancouver’s Helpline and co-facilitated both organizations’ volunteer training. I was also in the Board of Out On Screen, Vancouver’s Queer Film Festival and liaised with the program Out In Schools.

What values inform the work that you do? The choices that you make?

I’ve very much focused on principles of equity and inclusion – that non-dominate voices offer perspectives that need to be recognized and heard, that we need to create supports and access points for those who are ignored, oppressed or smoothed over by dominant discourse(s), that diversity is strength and makes us stronger as communities.

What is your motto?

Persist. Change takes time. Inclusion matters.

What interested you to take Positive Space training?

I suppose it was two-fold, when I moved to UBCO five years ago I had no community. As a queer man and new academic without any ties to the university or broader community it was not apparent how I could connect with other queer folk. The more critical issue was that LGBTQ students in my program were not thriving – this is an understatement – and I wanted to see Positive Space enacted on campus to support them both structurally (and the university, faculty and program level), personally (affirmation in their identity and creating a safe space) and professionally (shifting the discourse to recognize and welcome LGBTQ teachers).

What was the most valuable thing that you learned from the Positive Space workshop?

I know who to call/email when there is an issue. I have been able to support many colleagues, staff and students as a result.

As a Positive Space resource person how has the training helped you in your work? Personal life?

For me, it was who I met. I’ve taken part in the Positive Space workshop three times and I’ve meet allies and LGBTQ community members from diverse constituent groups on campus – staff, students, faculty members. It has created a safe space for me and in turn I share this will the teacher candidates and graduate students in my faculty.

Why should people at UBC take a Positive Space workshop?

It is an enriching experience to better understanding human diversity, how our identities can be negatively constructed by oppression, and, most importantly, how we can be supportive of one another in ways that nurture difference within community. We all deserve a safe space on campus, by better understanding the issues LGBTQ individuals face and how we can act as a resource helps to create a respectful environment for all.

What additional training would you like to have to assist you as a Positive Space resource person?

I think re-immersion in the project is important, hearing about new(er) and emerging projects on campus would help keep us current (pride steps, Pride Centre, are there social groups for staff and faculty, research taking place, etc).

How do you think Positive Space has influenced the campus community?

Pride Steps, more attention to LGBTQ peoples and the issues they face in coursework, Pride events on campus, PS decals on staff and faculty workspaces and doors.

How do you imagine that things will be like five years from now? What can we look forward to?

I’d love to see a social groups with quarterly or monthly events.

Which LGBTTQIA+ activist/ actor/ public figure/ singer do you admire? Why?

There were very few out public figures and none locally when I was growing up in the Prairies. I was in univeristy when I learned that Elton John is queer. It was incredibly exciting and affirming when kd lang, Melissa Etheridge, and George Michael came out when I just as I started my teaching career.

What was the last TV show or film you watched that had a member of the queer community as the lead?

My husband Trevor and I watch Orange is the New Black. I’m still processing that they have just killed off a key lesbian character. We recently watched The Danish Girl. I enjoyed the film version of The Normal Heart.

Has Positive Space training changed the way you do things/ think about things? If so, how?

I feel more connected to a network of resource people, rather than feeling alone in my efforts to support others to address issues.

What does a positive space at UBC look like?

For me, it is knowing that I can refer students to Campus Life and liaise with the staff there. It’s knowing that staff in the Disability Resource Centre, UBCO Health and Safety officers, faculty members and staff throughout the campus are knowledgeable and supportive of LGBTQ students, staff and faculty.

How did you find out about the Positive Space training?

I spoke with UBCO’s Equity and Inclusion Officer about LGBTQ students in my faculty who were not thriving for several reasons. She suggested that we re-launch Positive Space. [/column]

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Ruthann Lee

Ruthann is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Critical Studies, faculty of creative and Critical Studies.


Introduce yourself. Tell us about your work.

I’m Ruthann Lee. I’m an Assistant Professor here at UBC Okanagan. I teach Cultural Studies in the Department of Critical Studies. I’m going on my fourth year. I teach, research and live on the beautiful Okanagan territory as a guest.

What is your research about?

My new research is taking a shift. Earlier in my career I looked at representations of masculinity and used queer theory to analyze representations of race and masculinity in Hollywood films and popular culture. With my newer research, I’m interested in examining relationships between Indigenous and Christian-Korean communities across Canada. It started out as a pilot project in B.C. I’ll be interviewing Indigenous folks and Korean folks who have participated in missionary programs on First Nations reserves.

If you weren’t in the field you are in now, is there anything else you would like to do?

Yes, I often think about that – a few times a week, actually (laughs)! If I weren’t doing this, I would probably be in the food industry running a restaurant or a food truck. It’s increasingly appealing to me.

What values inform the work that you do? The choices that you make?

My interest in social justice work and anti-oppression is likely connected to my background and my former identity as a hard-core bible thumping Christian. I was so involved in the Church when I was younger, especially as a teenager, and the idea of wanting to be a good person and wanting to help people has always been a part of my life.

That kind of mentality can crossover into activism…”I want to save the world!” That incentive to make the world a better place…but the longer I do activist work, the more I realize that’s actually not a great place to work from. When we do anti-oppression work, it’s not so much about helping others or having sense of, “oh I am so self-actualized because I can help others” but rather…what I’ve learned and continue to learn about anti-oppression and anti-colonization work is that all of the violence and struggles in our lives and the oppression that we face is interlinked. I’m not saving anyone else–I’m actually saving myself, right? It’s Indigenous thinkers and mentors that have taught me to recognize the relationality of all livings things and to have an appreciation for the land and for communities.

When we do this kind of work (social justice, anti-oppression, or environmental justice), in order to transform people’s behaviours and attitudes, we need to start from where they are at. To be really generous in sharing and educating, or imparting any kind of knowledge around these issues, because we can’t tell from just meeting someone what kinds of experiences they’ve had or why they have come to believe in what they believe in. And so, it takes a lot of patience to do this kind of work, which sometimes I run out of honestly and I get really tired. Anyway, that’s a very long answer!

When did you get involved in Positive Space? When did you first hear about it?

When I first got to campus, I wanted to know if there was a pride centre, or any LGBTQ organizations, that were organizing and so I read on the back of a syllabus about Positive Space and the Equity and Inclusion Office. It must have been two years ago. Right away, I wanted to take the Positive Space training and know what it was like. Try to learn and brush up on stuff!

What was the most valuable thing that you learned from the Positive Space workshop?

The workshop is focused on terminology, so it was break that down. And working through some of those scenarios about incidents that have actually happened on campus in terms of lack of support, or talking about how to provide support to folks who are struggling with homophobia, transphobia and the like.

Why should people at UBC take a Positive Space workshop?

I think all of us can work on an ‘ism’ or a phobia and for that reason it is a way to check ourselves and learn more. Again, there are new languages, new issues for various marginalized communities that are, again, interlinked. I think it is everyone’s responsibility to know how to be a supportive ally to anyone who is marginalized in some way.

Also, it’s useful because you get introduced to different folks all over campus. You get to hear their perspectives and how things run in terms of their jobs, and the support that they provide to students, or faculty and staff. For that reason, it is about building connections within our workplace and our study space. I think everyone can benefit!

Do you think Positive Space has influenced the campus community?

Yes, I think so! It seems that there is more dialogue in general and I think it is also connected to the increased queer representation in the media. It’s normalized in many ways. For instance, when I first started teaching here, no one was talking about trans stuff at all. It was so taboo, and cisgender students seemed very uncomfortable if I taught about trans- gender identities; they would be very trans-phobic actually. Within just a few years, I feel like there has been a huge shift. There is more awareness now around what trans means, and there is more visibility; there are more trans students who are out, and that is really very encouraging. Relating to our Positive Spaces campaigns, there are more folks who have had some language training, and knowledge on trans issues. All of that has been really positive!

How do you imagine that things will be like five years from now? What can we look forward to?

I hope that it will grow, and that one day it will be mandatory for everyone to take Positive Space training in whatever role they have on campus! It would be great to have gender-neutral bathrooms and to have the Pride flag more visible. We need more events that are queer positive hoping that more students will just be comfortable identifying as gender-queer or trans. I just think that things are a lot more fun when they are queered up, just a lot more relaxed and fun. There should be less stigma and judgement in general on campus and within the Okanagan. Those are things that I look forward to!

Which LGBQTTI activist/ actor/ public figure/ singer do you admire? Why?

I really admire Laverne Cox. Whenever she is in the media, she’s always drawing attention to how her experience as a transwoman is unique and privileged in many ways without downplaying the racism she has experienced. She also notes the visibility of trans people as mostly a white trans community that has become much more visible, active and vocal.

She is also a feminist…a trans-feminist and in that way she draws attention to people like bell hooks who have always emphasized love as a form of activism. Therefore, I really admire her politics as a media figure and icon. I think she’s a great role model for many people to learn from.

What was the last TV show or film you watched that had a member of the queer community as the lead?

I watch Orange is the New Black. I think everyone should watch that show, it’s pretty interesting!

What does a positive space at UBC look like?

It would be a space where as soon as you walked into the room, you didn’t feel like you were being judged, or hated on right? That you just walked in and felt the love in the room – that’s what a positive space looks like. And, really, it should be every space!

In facilitating the Positive Space training, was there ever anything that surprised you?

Many things! Sometimes, I’m still shocked at the kind of assumptions that people make about gender, sexuality, race, and ability; all of those assumptions seem to come out in the training. I can even shock myself in terms of my own assumptions – there can be a degree of discomfort when talking about these issues. There is always the element of surprise during the training; you never know how the discussion will turn out!


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Folukè


Tell us about some of your interests and volunteer activities.

I am really interested in social justice. I just think we can make better where we are right now as a society and individuals. I’ve been trying to read a lot more and educate myself. Even in my free time, I read about people’s experiences and watch a lot of documentaries.

What values inform the work that you do or the choices that you make?

I follow the spirit of “leave it better”. The idea is that if you go to a space you should leave the space as it was, or better than it was, but not worse. Leave no trace or leave a good trace.

Which LGBQTTIA+ activist, public figure, artist do you admire and why?

Kevin Allison. He is a podcaster and he has a comedy show called Risk. It’s a storytelling show I started listening to in high school. As I listened to it more and more, I realized that it’s not that only gay people are on it a lot, it’s just that in regular media we don’t see LGBTQ people, and their representation on the show was shocking to me; realizing this changed my perspective a lot.

What interested you to take Positive Space training?

I feel like it’s just a skill that I wanted to have because I think it is important and I wanted to have it in my toolkit. Preparation. Safety first. Inclusion first.

What was the most valuable thing that you learned from the Positive Space workshop?

Viewing people who identify differently than me on the sexual spectrum made me realize you can’t just look at someone and know their sexuality. That’s literally impossible to do.

Why should people at UBC take a Positive Space workshop?

If you are at a university, the point is for you to learn and grow. Also, trying to push yourself to know more, even if it makes you uncomfortable, is important. I heard from a TedTalk that “the zone of uncomfortability is where all learning happens,” so if you’re uncomfortable that’s good! That means something is changing in you and you’re learning.

How do you imagine that things will be like five years from now? What can we look forward to?

I feel like I could see having Positive Space training as more of a common thing. It should be like getting your first aid certification; not everyone has their first aid but a lot of people do and it’s common.

What does a positive space at UBC look like?

It would be really cool if all of campus was a positive space, but I feel like just having that sticker is really important. Just going into a room, going into a classroom, going into an office, and being like “oh hey, I can be safe in here. I’m cool in here” is really important.

What was the last TV show or film you watched that had a member of the queer community as the lead?

There’s this show called Empire, it’s so beautiful. The show is about a very wealthy family, the father owns a record label and they are all musicians in the family. They’re African American, and in the African American community LGBTQ-identifying individuals are not accepted. The show primarily features the father’s gay son (played by an actor who is gay in real life) and the father dealing with the repercussions that came as a result. I liked how this show featured actors who played parts that represent aspects of their identities.


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Xenia


Tell us about some of your interests and volunteer activities

I was a residence advisor last year on campus. I have also been working at the Green Bean Coffee House on campus. I’m studying creative writing at the university so that’s mostly what I’m there to do, to write stuff.

What values inform the work that you do and the choices that you make?

Honesty is a big thing. I feel like when you’re in a job environment or in a relationship with coworkers, friends, significant others “honesty is the best policy” is usually a good thing to go for. I also value integrity and having faith in yourself despite whatever kind of environment that you’re in.

Which LGBQTTI activist/ actor/ public figure/ singer do you admire? Why?

I really admire Laverne Cox. I love her. She is on Orange is the New Black, she plays a trans-woman in the show and that’s what she is in real life. It’s really neat because the she – and the show – speaks out for the LGBT community and she’s really eloquent and charismatic with everything that she says.

What interested you to take Positive Space training?

The thing that interested me the most in taking the Positive Space training is that I hadn’t actually realized that there was a Positive Space campaign going on on campus. I knew that there was the Pride Centre, but I didn’t realize that they offered resource training and that they teach people about queer things.

What was the most valuable thing that you learned from the Positive Space workshop?

I think the most valuable thing from the training was knowing that there are people on campus that support creating a positive space and want to help educate others about the LGBT community.

Why should people at UBC take a Positive Space workshop?

It’s a really neat way for people to just realize that everyone is not what they seem. In this society, you kind of assume that everyone is straight and cis-gender until otherwise stated. It’s very annoying as a queer person to always have your identity not recognized by other people just because everyone assumes that you’re straight because most of the population is straight. What’s great about taking the Positive Space workshop is that people realize “oh, this is not actually how you think the world is”.

How do you imagine that things will be like five years from now? What can we look forward to?

It’s always interesting to think about this question because for the last couple of years I’ve just thought that marriage equality would never happen in the USA and that it was just going to go slowly, state by state. And then all of the sudden it was, BAM, universal. It’s so incredible; I’d love to see it go a lot farther in the next 5 years. I’d love for the public to become more aware and realize “Oh hey, this is an actual thing”.

What does a positive space at UBC look like?

I’m not really sure. There those little stickers that you put on everyone’s doors, which I think is super neat! It’s a way of identifying “hey, I’ve gone through this training” and I feel like it’s a really good way of letting people know that you are available for that kind of stuff. Other than that, it’s kind of difficult to think about because you don’t want a room covered in rainbows. Even though that’s really fun and I would totally live in that room. But yeah, anywhere with a friendly atmosphere where people can go and talk would be great.

What was the last TV show or film you watched that had a member of the queer community as the lead?

I saw this movie called The Way He Looks, which is about this blind kid in high school who is gay and falls in love with a new transfer student in his class. It’s really great when you have these movies that have queer people in them that aren’t about them finding their sexuality and it’s really neat to see that kind of representation because then it’s like “okay, I am a person and it’s all okay”.

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Paula Lambert

Paula Lambert works at UBC Okanagan campus in the Payroll: Payment and Procedure Services department. In her own words Paula says that she “pays people and makes sure that they have benefits and get paid on time”. She has been a Positive Space resource person since 2014.

Tell us about some of your interests and volunteer activities

  • I love gardening; I do a lot of reading… I try to get outside with my [two] dogs… a Yorkie cross and a border collie, so I like to take them out and go for walks and hikes. I am interested in human rights and social change and this influences what I follow outside of my work. I am pretty active on social media in order to keep up-to-date with news and social change pages, especially sites about LGBTQ and human rights issues.  My youngest daughter was a global development student and is currently a journalist and I spend a lot of time talking to her and following what she does. And because I follow what she does, it leads me to a lot of interesting things.

What values inform the work that you do or the choices that you make?

  • The things that I live by in my life by are kindness and honesty. I have a real thing about kindness, that’s kind of a biggie for me. I always think that it is a choice to be kind everyday and when you are kind to others they are kind to you. Small acts of kindness go a long way and that is a motto that I live my life by.

Which LGBQTTIA+ activist, public figure, artist do you admire and why?

  • Shane Bitney Crone made a documentary called “Bridegroom”. He has made this film and really fought for rights of same-sex couples and marriage equality.

What interested you to take Positive Space training?

  • Just a refresher mostly. I’d taken it before in different environments and I wanted it to be a little more UBCO specific. As well as, to have training that is a little more up-to-date, since things are changing quickly.

What was the most valuable thing that you learned from the Positive Space workshop?

  • I think that the concept of privilege is always changing and it’s valuable to have a more up-to-date view on that. As someone who is not 20 anymore, there are always so many new terms, labels and ways of fitting into and out of boxes that people use, so it is good to have a fresh outlook.

Why should people at UBC take a Positive Space workshop?

  • Definitely, the more the better! If nothing else, for their own awareness. Even if they never use it they are now more aware and there are still people who are not in the know.

How do you imagine that things will be like five years from now? What can we look forward to?

  • Doubt it can happen in 5 years, but I’d like to think that the conversation won’t be necessary someday.

What does a positive space at UBC look like?

  • It is hard to explain because to me a positive space is just where everything is irrelevant. Why does it matter? It’s not just about gender differences, sexual orientation, your ethnicity, or ability. It doesn’t matter.

What was the last TV show or film you watched that had a member of the queer community as the lead?

  • The Fosters (TV show)

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Pamela Richardson

Pamela Richardson is a former UBC Okanagan Faculty of Education instructor who is program head of the MA in Educational Leadership and Management at the School of Education and Technology at Royal Roads University.

Tell us about your work.
When I was at UBC Okanagan, I was an instructor in the Faculty of Education and the courses I taught mainly focused around inclusion, special education, human development, teaching methods and pedagogy. In terms of research, my areas of interest are inclusion and social justice work. That’s why I was interested in Positive Space and their work on campus.

What values inform the work that you do and the choices that you make?

Social justice, equity and inclusion are really important to me. What motivates me are the arts and creativity so it is really important to me to include that in my work.

What was the last TV show or film you watched that had a member of the queer community as the lead?

Transparent is about a transgender woman who comes out later in life and goes through the change; it is the story of her and her family.

What interested you to take Positive Space training?

I think it is really important to raise the visibility of these issues on campus and also to provide a space where people can learn and discuss LGBTQ issues and inclusion. I was also interested in this training because it was a chance to enhance my own ability to respond and think about these issues and language around them.

What was the most valuable thing that you learned from the Positive Space workshop?

I did both the training and the train-the-trainer workshops. I think for me, the most valuable thing was to listen to the conversations and hear how people discussed and engaged with the different issues or topics. It was also valuable to see how the workshop was structured and how we moved through some big issues in a short time.

Why should people at UBC take a Positive Space workshop?

The workshop helps connect people to a community of people that are also interested in social justice and inclusion issues. It helps spread awareness and knowledge and it is a thoughtful space. It’s a day of thoughtful conversation and I think that’s what people are at university should do.

How do you think Positive Space has influenced the campus community?

I think it has facilitated community building around equity issues. When you go through the training with others and then the train-the-trainer workshop with the same people, it gives you the strength of knowing that you’re a part of a team of people. The Positive Space committee itself is a nice network and community of people across staff, faculty and students.

Would you say that the positive space training has changed the way you do or think about things?

It enabled me to bring that part of myself to the fore in the university context. For example, when I moved into my new office I put up my Positive Space sign in my office because I think it is really important to make that visible in the university setting. It gave me a place to stand and it felt good to me.

What does a positive space at UBC look like to you?

I think it is people feeling that they can fully be themselves and not feel unsafe or limited in who they are. It would be a space where difference is celebrated and sought out. University is about bringing diverse perspectives and understandings of the world so we can learn from each other. It’s not about knowing everything or saying the right things all the time, it is a space that allows us to learn together.