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TAGSA Award for an Outstanding Conference Session Led by a Graduate Student

The recipient of the TAGSA Award for an Outstanding Conference Session Led by a Graduate Student for 2023 is Kevin Prada from McGill University for their session titled: “Vers La Réussite: Screening and Navigation Service Pilot Study for At-Risk Postsecondary Students in Linguistic Minority Settings”.

Kevin Prada | McGill University

Congratulations to Kevin! They were able to share some of their experiences and insights with TAGSA for a Q&A below.

  1. What was your session title and description from the STLHE conference?

Vers La Réussite: Screening and Navigation Service Pilot Study for At-Risk Postsecondary Students in Linguistic Minority Settings

Postsecondary students are vulnerable to psychological distress as they transition to adulthood and enter novel and rigorous academic environments. What is more: for many, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated pre-existing mental ill-health, given increased isolation and loss of social supports, hallmarks of the student experience through the transition to online learning. Moreover, certain minority groups are at heightened risk, such as Francophones living in minority contexts in Canada, who face service access and consequent health inequities. With the return to in-person learning, campuses must recognize students’ evolving needs and facilitate timely access to supports. Indeed, targeted intervention favouring at-risk student wellbeing and academic achievement is urgently needed. Screening and providing tailored systems navigation services to at-risk students may be an effective strategy to this end. As such, this mixed-methods exploratory longitudinal study was conducted through 2021-2023 in three provinces (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Ontario) among Francophone postsecondary students. Vers la réussite, a systems navigation intervention developed to offer tailored supports to at-risk Francophone students in minority settings, was launched and evaluated. This intervention’s impact on student wellbeing and achievement, comparing intervention and comparison groups, was measured through interviews and surveys conducted at four time points. Overall, results suggest that student needs and mental health differ depending on year of study, international vs. domestic status, marital and family status, sexual orientation and gender identity, and academic demands. Developing effective means by which to engage and communicate with students, especially those at higher risk, is key for intervention efficacy. The tailored support offered by the systems navigator was appreciated by participants and is a promising avenue for postsecondary institutions to promote student wellness and success. This study proposes valuable avenues for institutional administration and wellness service providers alike, seeking to promote all students’ wellbeing and academic achievement and address persisting inequity.

  1. Please tell us a bit about yourself!

Originally from Winnipeg, I am now pursuing my M.A. in Counselling Psychology at McGill! My goal is to complete my PhD and get my license to become a counselling psychologist to serve my community in Manitoba. Being myself a queer and French-speaking person, I will be able to satisfy a significant mental health need in my home province, as there are no French-speaking or openly queer psychologists seeing clients at this time. My research is mainly tied to equity-seeking or marginalized populations, namely 2S/LGBTQI+ and Official Language Minority Communities, and I conduct research seeking to bring about positive social change, and to bring attention to the experiences and needs of people who belong to these communities. My ultimate goal is to see the unseen and to hear the unheard.

  1. What is the most important aspect of the research you presented at STLHE that you would like to share?

Official language minority communities (OLMCs; Francophones outside Quebec, Anglophones in Quebec) have unique needs, in that they persistently face little to no access to culturally competent services or healthcare in their language. This disparity results in OLMCs facing persistently poorer physiological and psychological indicators of health. This reality is even more salient with postsecondary populations. Postsecondary students, especially those at the start of their academic journey, face significant uncertainty and transition, as they transition to a new scholarly life, to emerging adulthood, and as face a variety of new demands and expectations. This constellation of uncertainty brings them to be more vulnerable to ill health and risk-taking behaviours than the larger population. This issue is exacerbated when OLMC students are isolated within their English-dominant contexts and have little to no access to supports and services in their language. Therefore, we developed a novel program which (1) validated a quick sociodemographic screening tool to identify at-risk students, and (2) designed and offered a novel intervention, a navigation service, to tailor supports to individual students’ needs, and navigate them to the supports that could most help them. We sought thereby to bridge the divide between the patient and the provider, and also sensitize students to the services available to them, and promote continuity of culturally-competent care, in their language. We ran this program in the OLMC universities of Saint-Boniface (Winnipeg, MB), Hearst (Hearst, ON), and Regina (La Cité Universitaire, Regina, SK). This program was very well received, and had substantive effects on students’ wellbeing and academic achievement. We also noted that postsecondary populations are not monolithic. Many subpopulations, namely international, older, parent, 2S/LGBTQI+, and other often-forgotten student subpopulations, have unique needs, and these unique needs are often overlooked by ‘one-size-fits-all’ approaches. Hence, while there is no ‘silver bullet’ to satisfy all students’ needs, this novel navigation tool is, in a sense, a silver bullet, in that it is relational and dyadic, and allows student success staff to follow a student through their academic journey and tailor a support program to their evolving and unique needs. An implementation guide, containing both the screening tool and instructions for the navigation program, will be available in the Fall, free of charge, both in English and in French. This guide will be especially pertinent for student support staff in postsecondary campuses nationwide, as a promising new strategy to address the needs of diverse student populations. For more information about this guide, please contact the principal investigator, Danielle de Moissac: You can also reach me:

  1. What kind of support have you received for this research project?

I received support from the principal investigator, who hired me as a senior research assistant for this study, and who guided and mentored me throughout the two-year timespan of this longitudinal mixed-methods study.

  1. How did you first get involved in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL)?

From the outset, my research program has been focused on the wellbeing and risk-taking behaviours of postsecondary students. This has also guided my choice of program, in counselling versus clinical psychology.

  1. What did you learn from the STLHE Conference this year?

I learnt from other passionate stakeholders in the teaching and learning landscape, namely from other passionate and driven students, about creative means by which to continue to push and bring about social change within our larger institutions.

  1. What is something you have gained/learned from engaging in SoTL?

I have gained opportunities to have my voice heard. Student voices are vital for any discussions on SoTL, and I am privileged to have been able to add mine to the mix!

  1. Finally, what advice do you have for other graduate students interested in SoTL?

Come, and be heard. We are a generation of socially minded, passionate, and driven academics, and we must continue to locate creative and effective avenues to have our needs and convictions heard. We have an opportunity to shape the future (and the present!) of postsecondary education, so let us continue to be stakeholders within this landscape, bringing about the positive social change our world needs! Don’t wait, take action, the time is now, and you’ll never know the full effect of the actions you take today to co-construct a better world for tomorrow.

Congratulations again Kevin and TAGSA wishes you all the best in your future endeavours!

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