New Brunswick Social Policy Research Network

Nathan Thompson

IMG_9500-11) What is your official current position and title?

PhD Candidate in the Department of Sociology (UNB) and part-time instructor at Renaissance College (UNB).

2) What is your educational background?

I completed a BSc and a BEd at UNB then went on to complete a Master’s at U of T in Sociology and Equity Studies. I completed the coursework requirement for the PhD program at U of T before transferring to UNB’s Sociology department where I am currently writing my PhD thesis.

3) Talk a little about your career path?  Where did your passion for the research/work that you do originate and how did it develop?

I grew up in the area but have always had a bit of a complicated relationship with New Brunswick. It is a beautiful province with some of the nicest and warmest people I have ever met; yet at the same time it can be a challenging place to live when you are part of a minority or marginalized group. Eventually, upon completing of my Bachelor of Education at UNB, I knew I wanted to learn more about inequality and how it functions in society. I saw a lot of homophobia, racism, and misogyny in schools perpetuated by both students and teachers but felt powerless to do anything about it. I found the Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexuality Studies at U of T along with the Sociology and Equity Studies program at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and decided I would apply so that I could pursue a graduate program where I would be better equipped to understand marginalization and social inequality – so that one day I’d be able to return to New Brunswick with new knowledge and tools in order to make the province a more livable one for minority and marginalized populations. My work and everything I do stems from this desire to make the world a better place. It may seem a bit cliché but it’s true – I am always looking for ways I can put sociology to work; to make sociological research applicable and relatable to real world problems and issues with regard to social inequality.

4) Tell us about one or two of your current projects?

I recently completed my doctoral research project where I worked with LGBTQ+ youth in creating a video game that responds to and addresses issues they face as LGBTQ+ young people in New Brunswick. The game was just showcased at the Different Games Conference in New York City last weekend and it has been received well by those that have played it. In fact, we had a group of students at UNB play the game and many talked about the impact the game had on their understanding of LGBTQ+ experiences; that the game made them feel more empathetic. Not only does the game have impact on its players but the process of making the game brought together local area youth to discuss LGBTQ+ issues with others like themselves, which had a positive impact on their own lives. They discussed that there are very few opportunities for them get together with other LGBTQ+ people in New Brunswick, especially for those who come from small towns and communities. The group meetings provided them a space that I think is severely lacking in our town and province.

5) How do you see your research/work in terms of possibly contributing to evidence-based public policy?

I’m interested in grass roots organizing and participatory action research – community members coming together to address issues that impact them, doing the research themselves, and then discussing how they may be able to use that research to help solve community problems. However, like all forms of participatory action research, the end goal is to try and influence stakeholders and policy makers. If policy makers and community leaders play the video game my participants made, it would be wonderful if it had some sort of impact on how they understand the LGBTQ+ community. For instance, right now the province of New Brunswick is not adequately addressing healthcare access for transgender people nor in educating the New Brunswick public on LGBTQ+ issues. Advocating for marginalized and minority groups in the province (not just LGBTQ+ people) should have greater priority. The focus on out-migration in NB is often centered around a discourse of employment and economy but there are also people leaving because they don’t feel accepted and/or are lacking a strong community in which they feel supported due to their sexuality, gender identity, ability, and/or racial identity.

6) Discuss any past achievements that were significant to your professional path?  Have any contributed to the promotion of evidence-based public policy?

I’m not exactly sure how to answer this question – other than the release of the video game that was produced for my PhD project. The game was just released so any impact is yet to be seen.

7) Describe in a couple of sentences your involvement with NBSPRN and how your relationship with the Network has contributed to your research/work and/or to social/economic policy?

I’ve had a couple of meetings with Nick Scott and he has been incredibly helpful in directing myself to some fantastic local resources. For instance, some of my colleagues and myself have been trying to get a games lab operational at UNB in which part of its mandate would be to look at games as possible vehicles for social innovation and change. Nick was able to provide us with some excellent insight on how to produce a “business plan” to pitch the project to others, along with the names of people who may be interested in hearing about our plan. The lab would work as a games research hub in Atlantic Canada and would connect academic research with industry and community. The lab is still a work-in-progress but we hope to secure some funding for it soon!

8) Any last thoughts? 

I think I’ve already hit on some of these things above; my personal journey and relationship to NB and also about switching the narrative from “we need more jobs to keep people here” to “we need more diversity to make our province vibrant”… it’s rare to find people who think about the out-migration of individuals from the province because of their social location as a minority or marginalized person in New Brunswick and how that may impact their want to remain here and contribute both as an effective citizen and as an individual with unique life experience that may have something to offer the rest of us! There seems to be a lot of concern about young people leaving the province for work without considering the fact that young people may also feel that the province is “behind the times” in addressing issues they are keenly aware of and dealing with personally. For instance, recent statistics show that only 48% of 13-20 years olds identify as “exclusively heterosexual.” Perhaps it’s time our institutions and policies reflect this changing demographic.

Copyright 2013
A Ginger Design