C/O Kevin Patrick Robbins

Students can learn more about how sexuality is defined by social constructs in a sociology course

Sexuality is often considered an uncomfortable topic, especially in the classroom; however, there are many courses at McMaster which cover topics related to sexuality.  

SOCIOL 3UO3, for example, is a course that explores issues related to sex and sexuality from a sociological standpoint. Tina Fetner, the Chair of the sociology department at McMaster, has been teaching this course even before she began teaching at McMaster. 

There are other courses offered at McMaster which discuss sexuality from other perspectives. PSYCH 3AC3, for example, discusses sexuality from an evolutionary and social psychology perspective, according to the course outline. LIFESCI 4XO3, another course offered at McMaster, discusses sexuality from a biopsychological perspective, according to its course outline.  

Fetner explained that teaching about sexuality often leads to students feeling discomfort, even when they do not expect to.  

“[Students are] super confident that they have found their way out of any kind of sexual taboos, that unlike previous generations, they are super confident about talking about sexuality, they feel very comfortable about it,” said Fetner. 

Fetner acknowledged that members of the younger generation are likely more comfortable talking about sexuality than their grandparents but added that they are often still less comfortable than they consider themselves to be.  

“As we actually start talking about it, we all start to giggle we all start to express our discomfort in socially appropriate ways,” explained Fetner. 

Fetner explained the importance of teaching about sexuality in an academic context, despite social taboos.  

“In order for us to understand ourselves and our social world, sexuality has to be one of the things that we're willing to talk about and treat not as some kind of special weird taboo subject, but as a regular topic of sociological analysis, where we can collect evidence, analyze it, and understand the social patterns, because otherwise we're missing an important part of the social world,” explained Fetner.  

According to Fetner, is important that we understand and discuss sexuality because it plays a major role in influencing our interactions with one another and with the world.  

“It is possible to see sexuality itself as a social force and [to see] the way that sexuality has been harnessed by even larger social historical forces, like colonialism, and like racism, and obviously sexism and gender inequality, and how either surveillance of or restrictions upon (or even criminal penalties for) certain kinds of sexuality have been used to create social divisions between groups,” explained Fetner. 

Photo by Kyle West

By: Saba Manzoor

The federal government has awarded $3.3 million in grants to 72 social sciences and humanities researchers at McMaster.

These grants are a part of the federal government’s social sciences and humanities research council’s “Insight Development Grant” program.

McMaster was one of nearly 80 post-secondary institutions across the country to receive part of the $141 million overall grant funding provided by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

This announcement comes a few months after McMaster maintained its rank as Canada’s most research-intensive university on the list of Canada’s top 50 research universities.

Funding through government programs, such as the SSHRC-IDG, continues to play a significant role in establishing the university’s rank on the list.

In addition to being lauded for the quality of their research, McMaster’s humanities and social science researchers have also been recognized for the communicability of their research.

In particular, they were the recipients of the 2017 SSHRC award of excellence for communications, which recognized the accessibility of McMaster research for non-expert audiences.

One of this year’s research grant recipients is Jeffrey Denis, an associate professor in the department of sociology.

Denis’ funds are being put towards a collaborative project with Reconciliation Kenora, a non-profit organization comprised of Indigenous and non-Indigenous residents in Northwestern Ontario.

The goal of Denis’ project is to improve local relationships and better understand the reconciliation efforts that prevail in this part of the province.

“Our plan is to conduct a series of video-recorded sharing circles with Anishinaabe, Metis and settler residents about what reconciliation means, the barriers and enablers to achieving it and how to engage more people in the process,” said Denis.

Brent McKnight, an assistant professor with the DeGroote School of Business, is another grant recipient this year.

Through this funding, McKnight will be evaluating how external considerations, such as environmental, social and governance factors, contribute to financial investments.

Specifically, McKnight will be examining how these factors play into a retail market investment decisions.

“There are few sources of funding for social science research and this multi-year grant is critical,” said McKnight.  

Mark Norman, another grant recipient, is a postdoctoral fellow in the department of health, aging and society at McMaster.

With the funding, Norman will be investigating the organization and social meanings of sport and physical recreation in Ontario youth detention centres.

According to Norman, despite their popularity in youth correctional facilities, evidence suggests that implementing sports programs for at-risk youth produces mixed outcomes.

Norman’s project aims to reconcile the knowledge gap and explore why these programs are yielding these results.

“It is crucial that Canadian governments and post-secondary institutions invest in social sciences and humanities research, particularly projects that investigate pressing social problems or provide insight on how to ameliorate social injustices in our society,” explains Norman.

Other research projects funded through the grant cover a wide range of topics, including the history of smallpox and the effects of taxation on trade.


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Shloka Jetha is a woman who has always been on the move. After growing up in seven countries, the 23-year old has finally settled in Toronto and is pursuing her dream of working with at-risk youth. Part of what appealed to her about the new Professional Addiction Studies program at McMaster Continuing Education is that it’s online, which means she can set her own schedule and study on-the-go when she’s away from home.

But of course the biggest draw is the way Jetha feels the program will complement and expand upon what she learned in her McMaster degree in sociology, as well as what she is currently learning in a Child and Youth Care program at another school. With the goal of someday working in a clinical setting like the Sick Kids Centre for Brain and Mental Health, Jetha believes the more practical information she has about addiction and mental health, the better.

“I’m learning a lot in my current Child and Youth program,” Jetha enthuses, “but for me there is a bit of a knowledge gap that the McMaster Professional Addiction Studies program will help to close. It’s an incredibly complex field, every situation is new, and you need to be able read between the lines and understand the difference between what a troubled kid is saying and what’s actually going on in their life.”

Jetha believes that having the rich background knowledge the Professional Addiction Studies program will provide, and being able to link that information to her work in the field, will help her excel faster. Most importantly, she feels it will make her better and more effective at helping and healing kids in crisis.

“I’m specifically looking forward to gaining more knowledge about pharmacology, but also about other things as it’s difficult to learn on the job,” Jetha says. “I can learn a tremendous amount from the kids I work with, and that’s invaluable experience, but coming to them with a deeper knowledge base will allow me to talk with them about drugs and alcohol in a way I otherwise couldn’t.”

Jetha has been fortunate not to be personally touched by addiction, but has lost friends and people in her community from overdose. She is also familiar with the impact of this complex issue through the volunteer work she has done.

Even though this is an incredibly demanding career path, it’s one Jetha is proud and honoured to walk. She feels the good outweighs the bad and is determined to continue learning and helping as much as she can. The Professional Addiction Studies program at McMaster Continuing Education is uniquely designed to help her achieve that goal.

Applications for Spring term are open until April 29, 2019. Learn more at mcmastercce.ca/addiction-studies-program


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