Saskatchewan

New program at U of Sask. focusing on queer theory, gender diversity and sexualities

Starting next month, students at the University of Saskatchewan will be able to sign up for a new certificate program.

Program will begin next month for spring semester

Alessio Ponzio is a history professor at the University of Saskatchewan and will be teaching two of the queer theory courses. (Morgan Carlton)

Several departments at the University of Saskatchewan have come together to create an interdisciplinary certificate program focused on queer theory, gender diversity and sexualities.

The program was much needed at the U of S, according to Alessio Ponzio, a history professor at the university.

"As a queer person, I felt it was very important for me to offer to the students something that would allow them to understand themselves, understand the world around them," he said.

Ponzio said discussions about creating the certificate program started many years ago but it was not until recently that  they started seeing results.

As a queer person, I felt it was very important for me to offer to the students, something that would allow them to understand themselves, understand the world around them.- U of S history professor Alessio Ponzio- U of S history professor Alessio Ponzio

"The queer certificate is going really to be a way to make queer people feel, I think, accepted more. And it's going to be a way also to teach them about themselves, about others, about history, about anthropology," Ponzio said. 

LISTEN | Carolina de Barros and Thios Mwunvaneza spoke about the importance of the new certificate with host Leisha Grebinski on Saskatoon Morning: 
Until now, students like Carolina Barros had to piece together their own education in queer studies. But starting next month, students can sign up for a certificate in queer theory, gender diversity and sexualities. Barros joins host Leisha Grebinski along with psychology student Thios Mwunvaneza to speak about the new certificate.

Carolina de Barros is a graduate student who will be completing the course in the fall. They are also studying for a masters in psychology at the U of S. 

De Barros said this was "a lot of work" and it was difficult for them to figure out where to go to learn what they were looking for.

"I didn't have the opportunity to have a central queer certificate. So mostly what I would do is I would go onto the course catalog for the U of S and just scour like every single department," they said. 

Going forward, De Barros is looking to study more about sexuality, the way it is defined and how the labels are used.

Carolina De Barros, left, and Thios Mwunvaneza are students at the University of Saskatchewan. (Carolina De Barros, Thios Mwunvaneza)

Also pursuing the certificate is Thios Mwunvaneza, a psychology undergraduate who will be completing his studies next year. 

Mwunvaneza said there are misconceptions about the LGBTQ identities. He said these identities are not new inventions, and that there were many others who came before him throughout history. 

I want to let especially LGBTQ youth, who are at most risk of homelessness, poverty and mental health issues, to give them the help that I desperately needed as a kid.​​​​- Psychology student Thios Mwunvaneza- Psychology student Thios Mwunvaneza

He said it is important for the LGBTQ community and allies to learn about the history of queer theory, gender and sexuality because it will "broaden their horizons."

"I want to let especially LGBTQ youth, who are at most risk of homelessness, poverty and mental health issues, to give them the help that I desperately needed as a kid and to let them know that they're not alone and that there is a future."

Mwunvaneza wants to become a counselling psychologist in the future and said having these tools will be important for him in his chosen career path.

Students can sign up for the queer theory, gender diversity and sexualities studies starting next month.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Moreen Mugerwa is a journalist with CBC Saskatchewan. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Regina. She works as a portrait and lifestyle photographer in her spare time.

now