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USask PhD student Andrew Hartman (BA’14, MEd’19) is queer and Métis conducting research at the Sex, Gender, and Reproductive Psychology Lab. (Photo by Kristen McEwen)

Supporting queerness in academic, research spaces

Queer, Métis USask PhD student focusing research to help local 2SLGBTQIA+ communities

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By Kristen McEwen

Andrew Hartman (BA’14, MEd’19) considers the University of Saskatchewan (USask) to be a big piece of home.

As a queer, Métis person, born and raised on Treaty Six Territory and Homeland of the Métis, Hartman has spent plenty of time on campus since first attending USask SCI-FI Science Camps in Grade 3.

“There’s a sense of community and belonging I have here,” Hartman said. “I really try to do a lot of work to serve my community and help my community.”

As a PhD student, their thesis focuses on queer survivors of gender-based violence and the process of healing. Hartman is studying repeated violent events people experience throughout their daily lives.

“How do we heal when there’s no time to heal—when constantly, repeatedly, someone else is picking at the wound,” they said.

Hartman is part of the Sex, Gender, and Reproductive Psychology Lab, working towards their PhD in applied social psychology in the College of Arts and Science.

As a queer person themselves, Hartman described conducting research with queer participants as having a “deep understanding.”

"People will often say, ‘Oh your topics are so heavy.’ And it is heavy,” they said. “But when I’m doing a lot of my work ... there is this connection. Queer folks working together—that's really magical. This deep understanding and the lived experiences of others guides how I approach my work.” 

When Hartman conducts their research, gestures such as honouring pronouns are a small but important part of the interview process with participants. This small gesture shows how Hartman understands lived experiences that can help establish trust. 

“I’ve had amazing interactions with participants that are beyond researcher-participant dynamics and more like human beings trying to understand and solve things together, which is something that I love and really value. I’m so grateful that I get to do that in my work.”

Hartman has been part of many initiatives for local 2SLGBTQIA+ communities, including as a program evaluator for OUTSaskatoon’s Pride Home, the first long-term group home for 2SLGBTQIA+, gender and sexually diverse youth in Canada. Hartman’s program evaluation led to the creation of a 2SLGBTQIA+ youth housing toolkit that helps to develop additional queer housing initiatives across North America and Turtle Island.

“My proudest achievement is my involvement with Pride Home, where I had the privilege of interacting with queer youth and serving as a conduit for their collective wisdom and experiences,” they said. “This experience has not only shaped my perspective but fundamentally changed me as a person.”

A winding academic path at USask

Program evaluation and problem solving are themes present throughout Hartman’s academic career and employment on campus. After they completed their Bachelor of Arts degree in 2014, they worked for the Indigenous Student Achievement Pathways (ISAP) program, directed by ISAP Team Lead Dr. Sandy Bonny (PhD). Hartman provided holistic support and mentorship to undergraduate Indigenous students. Simultaneously, they were completing their Master of Education, Leadership in Post-Secondary Education.

Hartman’s academic journey at USask was not always a direct path. During their first year of their PhD program in 2019, Hartman was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis—a type of spinal arthritis that is also an autoimmune disease.

Already dealing with chronic pain alongside their newly diagnosed illness, Hartman had to navigate many challenges when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Canada in March 2020.

“At one point, I had to throw away the timeline and work at my own pace, at my own capacity and do a bit of self-care to build up my strength,” they said.

Their supervisor, Dr. Karen Lawson (PhD), a professor and department head of Psychology and Health Studies, encouraged Hartman to stay, even though they weren't on track with their expected timeline to complete the PhD program.

“I probably would have dropped out if I didn’t have that support and understanding,” they said. “That’s how important that supervisor-student relationship is. When you have that support, graduate students can overcome a lot.”

With Lawson’s support, Hartman also taught an introductory psychology course for an ISAP cohort.

“Being a Métis student myself ... it was a wonderful full-circle moment,” they said. “Being able to weave Indigenous worldviews, perspectives and ways of knowing into the first-year psychology curriculum was an opportunity I am grateful for.”

Now, Hartman is currently the HUB Project Team Leader at the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (CGPS) while they continue their PhD program.

Hartman developed a number of resources for the The Grad HUB website, which serves as an all-in-one essential onboarding tool for USask graduate students. The resources included the Individual Development Plan and roadmaps that help students “navigate and demystify their graduate programs.”

They also acted as a consultant for USask to develop affirming spaces for diverse communities on campus and co-lead the CGPS Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Framework.

“I have so much pride in that work of listening and evolving ... and applying what I’m learning (in) my PhD to the grad student community,” they said.

Embracing queerness in all spaces

Hartman said that Pride is just as important today as the movement has been in the past.

“We see in the present-day trans and gender-diverse people’s rights being under attack across the country. We’ve seen that with the Saskatchewan government in Bill 137, alongside similar actions of the Alberta and New Brunswick governments,” they said. “It’s important for us to continue to rally, be visible, and demonstrate to others the beauty that is queerness.”

Hartman shared a piece of advice for queer students starting their post-secondary educational journeys.

“(Queerness) is going to exist in all spaces—and that is an act of resistance,” they said. “Purely existing in one’s queerness and embracing one’s identity is such a brave and wonderful act to give. Also, it inspires other people around you.”

Hartman encouraged students to find groups on campus who accept them for who they are, and not spending time on people who won’t.

“For younger people, and older people, we have to remind ourselves of that (resistance),” they added. “To have that space, and to have that community, is really important when our identities are still being questioned without us in the conversation—whether or not we should exist or how we should exist.”

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