Queering the classroom with Sophie Godley (MPH ’99)

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Sophie Godley, courtesy Boston University

In a study published in the February issue of Advances in Physiology Education, University of Washington HSPop alum Sophie Godley (DrPH, MPH) along with her colleagues at Boston University, found that students benefit when professors authentically present their LGBTQ+ identities and harness open conversations about gender and sexual identity in the classroom.

The research paper, LGBTQ+ faculty, queering health sciences classrooms: student perspectives, explores college students’ thoughts, feelings, and behaviors regarding the effect of faculty openly sharing their LGBTQ+ identities while actively working to create open, inclusive dialogue and space in their classrooms. Dr. Godley and her co-authors, Jesse Moreira-Bouchard (PhD) and Michele “Shelly” DeBiasse (PhD, RDN, LDN), are all LGBTQ+ identified faculty at BU.

In this qualitative study, 86 students enrolled in their courses responded to a survey. The faculty researchers found that their queer presentation and classroom styles enhanced their students’ sense of belonging. “The large majority of students, both LGBTQ+-identified and non-LGBTQ+-identified, described feeling safe, included, and welcomed in the classroom. They described engaging more in peer-to-peer education and felt that instructor authenticity created a safe and inclusive classroom.” The authors continued, “Altogether, these results suggest a positive effect on student sense of belonging when faculty authenticity and intentionality create inclusive classroom environments in the health sciences.” Notably, this prompted students to participate more openly in discussions—thereby enhancing classroom culture, engagement, and learning.  

“Colleges and universities should work to create policies that enhance the safety (and reduce the additional burden!) for LGBTQ+-identified faculty to present openly and authentically in their classrooms, as there are potential ‘ripple-in-the-pond’ benefits to the student body and by extension the college itself through the creation of an inclusive, safe community where faculty and students feel they belong.”

-Moreira-Bouchard, Godley, & DeBiasse

The researchers also noted that some individuals from majoritized groups may experience discomfort with the process of integrating these perspectives and suggested that faculty and administrators “work with LGBTQ+ faculty and students of all identities to help them realize greater comfort with discussing issues related to the diverse lives in our society.”

Dr. Godley earned her Master of Public Health degree from the University of Washington in 1999 with a concentration in Social and Behavioral Sciences. Now, she serves as Clinical Associate Professor at the Boston University School of Public Health and Associate Director of the BU Kilachand Honors College. She focuses her work on supporting healthy sexuality in communities and schools as well as supporting families and parents of adolescents.

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