This initiative, the Student Experience Research Team (SERT), is driven by the following commitments:
Creating a meaningful, high-impact research opportunity for undergraduate students that will enrich their understanding of their own and their fellow students’ experience in higher education.
Activating non-traditional, “ways of knowing” in our methodology.
Making a meaningful contribution to scholarship concerning student affairs, student engagement, and student experiences through these research efforts.
SERT is a project at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada created and lead by Tesni Ellis and John Hannah. Learn more here from the creators of SERT about our method.
Meet The Team:
Emkay Adjei-Manu: Emkay is a Social Work major with passions and interests lying in film, photography, discussion and writing as a form of relaying truth as a catalyst for social and political transformation. Emkay also believes in the purpose of community building as a way to develop sustainable forms of progress. They have experience working as a Program Coordinator at RSU Trans Collective where they facilitated workshops, programming, panels and discussions centered around vulnerable gender identities. Emkay hopes to pursue an arts-based career focused on exploring and expanding marginalized narratives as a productive method of informing and re-shaping policy and design.
Zinab Bakroun: Zinab is a Biomedical science student at Ryerson University. During her time as an undergraduate student, she has contributed to various facets of clinical and psychological research. She has assimilated an ability to understand underlying assumptions and an ability to make sound judgments based on research and analysis of data. She is eager to expand her knowledge on the student experience at Ryerson University and hopefully discover thought-provoking ways to enhance it using arts-based research and non-traditional techniques. In her free time, she enjoys photography, cooking and spending time with friends and family.
Alicia Churilla: BA Fashion Communications (June 2019). Alicia is a digital artist, fashion photographer, and graphic designer in the freelance creative sphere. She has contributed arts-based research within the academic fashion field, related to identity and belonging. While continuing to pursue opportunities as a fashion photographer, her goal is to also continue arts-based research within and outside of fashion academia in efforts to understand the relationship citizens have with their communities.
Ryan Mawdsley: Ryan is a Sheridan College alumnus and creative hobbyist who enjoys working in traditional and digital media including drawing, painting, sculpture, and most recently web and game design. He is studying Nutrition and Food with a focus on qualitative research and community wellness programming.
Vanessa Henry: BA Criminology (June 2019). Vanessa is an activist and artist who is passionate about using her story to raise awareness about inequalities in the Canadian education system. Vanessa has started a movement called Kids Matter that provides educational opportunities for racialized and underprivileged children. Her movement raises awareness about the discrepancy between education provided to children in low income neighbourhoods. She uses education to encourage and promote physical activity and the importance of learning, to provide all children with an equal opportunity in life.
Matthew Tulloch: BA Sociology (June 2019). Matthew has acquired both quantitative and qualitative analytical skills, and has a keen understanding for the social environment. He is passionate about student affairs and is eager to assist in the betterment of the student experience in any way possible.
Meet The Team:
Sara Bakroun: Sara Bakroun is a Biomedical Science student minoring in Psychology and is focused on gaining a better understanding of the student experience while discovering thought provoking ways to improve it. Sara is also focused on challenging the stereotype of the typical science student. She is focused on making a contribution in her program by being a part of the Biomedical Science course union to help be the voice of her classmates. Sara is a mentor and is dedicated to helping first year students transition to university. She was interested in becoming a part of the SERT to gain a better understanding of the student experience at Ryerson and try and find ways to ameliorate, create and/or implement new methods to improve the experience of students from all ages, backgrounds and ethnicities.
Claire Lowenstein: BA Arts & Contemporary Studies, Equity and Diversity (June 2020). Working at SERT has helped further her interest in exploring emergent approaches to institutional challenges to accessibility. She has piloted several activist initiatives on campus that move from an intersectional and feminist lens to raise awareness about threats to students democracy and climate change.
Bilqees Mohamed: BA Social Work (June 2020). Bilqees is interested in education, equity, youth justice and community engagement. She is specifically interested in how education policy and curriculum can be reflective of intersectional identities and lived experiences of youth and students. She is currently working on research at her placement that evaluates the cross-sectoral responses to gun violence through an anti-oppressive and transformative justice lens. Bilqees hopes to continue the process of learning and unlearning both as a future social worker and a student of life.
Daniel McIntosh: BA Journalism (June 2020). Daniel was the chief copy editor of the Ryerson Review of Journalism for 2019/2020. His writing has appeared in The Eyeopener, Diaspora Film Festival and PugMag. Most of his time is spent writing about media criticism and thinking about pop culture. He was drawn to SERT because of their exploration of arts-based research, as an alternative to tedious tomes of research that already exist. He will never betray his firmly Canadian sensibilities.
MJ Wright: BA Arts & Contemporary Studies, Culture Studies (Dec. 2020). In his education thus far he has focused his studies in sexual culture, film and other popular media, experimental techniques in art and environmental issues. In 2017 his article on ideologies of pornography was published in the first issue York University’s undergraduate journal Culture and he has worked as an editor for their subsequent publications. He was interested in SERT due to the holistic view of students and storytelling that was core to their values and for the opportunities to experiment within research.
Gillian Webb: BA Arts and Contemporary Studies, Culture Studies (June 2020). Gillian is a singer songwriter and visual artist who plans to pursue a career in music full time.
Our manifesto is a public, shared declaration of our intentions; it’s a way to make conspicuous what is important to us in this project.
To our fellow researchers, have these values in mind:
Be skeptical of the accepted points of view, so that when you look at things from other angles, you will expect surprises.
Don’t have a destination in sight but, rather, a good process for going somewhere.
Be driven by curiosity, a desire to see things anew, questions, not answers.
Take leaps of faith, go into unknown territory, entertain the outrageous.
Connect with warmth, dignity, and respect.
Make things as a way to have insight.
Use that insight to make other things more visible.
Share that new visibility with others to broaden our collective understanding.
Be brave, but humble with your assertions, your ideas – they may not be “right”, but they add to the story, like the assertions and ideas of others.
There may be others who are affected by your inquiries, an after-math. Attend carefully to that always.
Do all of this believing it will contribute to a more just world.
Will engage in fearless inquiry about the hidden elements of student experience.
Will be committed to challenging conventional wisdom and un-learning when old truths get in the way of new ones.
Will engage in this pursuit ethically, responsibly, attentively, and honestly.
Will embrace non-traditional forms of inquiry and be open to emergent insight.
Will use, when appropriate, art and storytelling to help unravel untold truths about student lives.
Will aim to create genuine and positive change in the Ryerson student community and those who support them.
References throughout site
Adichie, C. N. (July 2009). The danger of a single story. Ted Talk for TEDGlobal 2009. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story?language=en.
Eisner, E. & Barone, T. (2012). Arts based research. Washington, DC: SAGE Publications.
Hammond, Z. (2014): The first six weeks create a counter narrative. Retrieved from:
Hendry, P. M. (2007). “The future of narrative.” Qualitative Inquiry, 13(4), 487-498.
Hannah, J., & Ellis, T. (2018). “The student as artist.” About Campus, 23(2), 11–18. https://doi.org/10.1177/1086482218785876
Ross, K. (2017). “Making empowering choices: How methodology matters for empowering research participants.” Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 18(3). http://ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/docview/1947971761?accountid=13631
Schreiner, L.A. (2017), “The privilege of grit.” About Campus, 22: 11-20. doi:10.1002/abc.21303
Journal Entries by the Creators
It’s April 2nd, SERT is two short months from completing our project and term as a team, and yet it’s likely we won’t see each other in person through any of that time.
This is the waiting part. Poised and ready to deploy, we await word from the ethics board, and it gives us time to discuss, reflect, collect our thoughts and remind ourselves of the good reasons for doing this work. So, where are we?
Imagine you have been granted a four-month, all-hassles-taken-care-of opportunity to travel. You arrive at the harbor, where the trip, an ocean-going trip, will begin, and where you will choose between two boats. Boat # 1 will maintain a strict and well worked out itinerary, following a route popularized and perfected by hundreds of travelers before you, reviewed and curated so that every detail and contingency of the trip is managed. You can be guaranteed, in this boat, to be treated to comfort and predictability, and satisfaction. Boat # 2, on the other hand, makes no such promise.