Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Psychology

Program Name/Specialization

Community Psychology

Faculty/School

Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Simon Coulombe

Advisor Role

Main Supervisor

Abstract

Universities in Canada and across the globe are experiencing a significant diversification of their student population. However, there is a great need to understand how campus spaces can better support the wellbeing of diverse students, where supports have traditionally been built to support a privileged and homogenous group of students. The study builds on a multi-disciplinary theoretical framework (wellbeing, intersectionality, microaggressions, and the Psycho-environmental Potential Model) to explore a) the positive wellbeing of diverse students (i.e., racialized; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer, and/or living with any type of mental health issue or physical disability) and b) how the physical environment on campus influences their wellbeing. Using a place-based approach, 22 interviews were conducted among diverse students attending a Canadian university. To gain a multi-dimensional understanding of diverse students’ experiences, data collection procedure combined walking interviews, narratives, and an adapted photovoice approach. Through a thematic analysis, multiple aspects emerged as salient in diverse students’ conceptualization of positive wellbeing, including positive individual and social functioning, academic wellbeing, and the role of community and social support, especially with regards to navigating microaggressions. Regarding the physical campus, themes that promoted wellbeing straddle the six functions of the Psycho-Environmental Potential Model (e.g., shelter & security, task instrumentality, pleasure). Importantly, participants emphasized access to academic spaces that support productivity and collaboration among students, the beneficial impacts of natural elements on campus to allow for restoration and relaxation, and the desire for spaces, art or symbols that reflect their diverse, intersecting identities. Higher education institutions should implement systemic change, including in the way spaces are planned and designed to address discrimination faced by diverse students. Particularly, we need to use an intersectional lens to respond to the unique microaggressions experienced by those who identify with multiple intersecting identities, as well as to their needs for appropriate support and identity-validating environments. This research highlights that centring diverse students’ voices in our understanding of the physical campus and the wellbeing support services can provide experience-based information to inform the inclusive design of spaces where diverse students can thrive.

Convocation Year

2020

Convocation Season

Fall

Available for download on Friday, August 05, 2022

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