March 23, 2017 | Volunteer & Awards
The power of education, the power of example
Lance McCready wins the 2017 Ludwik and Estelle Jus Memorial Human Rights Prize
Education fights discrimination in two ways, says Lance McCready, a professor in the Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education at OISE. First, a post-secondary education opens the door to an empowering host of benefits for marginalized youth, including good career options and access to support programs and services. And secondly, the opportunity to learn in itself is incalculably important “to developing a real sense of efficacy,“ he says.
McCready has made it his life’s work to help students access both these benefits of education. For his outstanding efforts to shed light on the experience of racialized LGBT youth, especially gay and bisexual young men, he has been named the winner of the 2017 Ludwik and Estelle Jus Memorial Human Rights Prize, an award that honours positive, lasting contributions to education and action against discrimination.
Of course, an education begins in the classroom. Since coming to U of T in 2006, McCready has created courses in youth studies, masculinity studies and urban education. “I’ve been trying to add to the curriculum of the University in the area of human rights in two ways,” he says. “One is looking at youth rights, youth issues and youth activism. The other is around men and masculinities. I think there are really key issues that we need to address, so those courses help students think about ways that gender and sexuality are related to issues of access and participating in education and health care.”
He created a foundations course in Urban Education: “an exciting thing to do, and something that was never taught at OISE before.” More recently, his Men and Masculinities undergraduate course delves into how masculinity is related to issues of substance use, religion, sports, advertising and gender-based violence. McCready also created a Queer Youth Studies course for the Sexual Diversity Studies program at University College.
All these courses are informed by McCready’s research. He has several ongoing research grants, including one from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research that is funding a study of the social determinants of health-care access for newcomer gay and bisexual African, Caribbean and Black young men. He also heads the Educational Trajectories of Young Black Men study funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and is writing scholarly articles about a range of social justice issues that affect Black LGBT youth’s transition to adulthood, from HIV/STDs and homelessness, to access to postsecondary education. Data is sorely needed in these under-researched areas, and his contributions are cutting-edge as well as innovative.
McCready’s community research collaborations are especially outstanding. “A lot of my work has focused on the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention,” he says. “There wasn’t a huge research base concerning access to health for LGBT people, and then, specifically, young gay and bisexual men. So my job is to help those organizations gather information so that they can have a database that they can use to design, tailor or adapt appropriate programs.” It’s very collaborative, he says, all the way through identifying a problem, collecting the data, and identifying findings that can be mobilized.
A big part of collaboration is leading by example. This, say McCready’s students, is a place where he really shines. They describe him as compassionate, brilliant, thoughtful, creative, brave, kind and generous with his time.
“It’s about listening,” he says quietly. ”There’s a lot of concern around the voices of racialized and marginalized populations being left out of policy-making. And so I think my responsibility, as a researcher, is to do a lot of listening, consciously, to those voices, to those experiences, and working with organizations to figure out what their meaning and implications are.
“I have a certain set of skills that can be leveraged to accomplish some of the goals that communities have to reduce health disparities, and to fight for access to education and decent work. But I don’t claim to know everything about the everyday that every community or population experiences.”
Empowering people also means building confidence in communities, he points out. “There can be a real skepticism, or a real hopelessness that through participation and civic engagement you *can* make a difference. That’s what I try to instil also, with students. To have the community say that my work is making a difference – that’s what’s the most meaningful.”
The Ludwik and Estelle Jus Memorial Human Rights Prize is presented along with several other faculty, staff and student awards under the banner of Awards of Excellence, an annual program recognizing the outstanding members of the University of Toronto community who have made rich and meaningful contributions to the University, their communities and to the world.
Alumni Relations within the Division of University Advancement is the steward of the Awards of Excellence program on behalf of the University of Toronto Alumni Association, and co-ordinates the vital contributions of other University stakeholder groups toward this prestigious award program.
Professor Lance McCready and the other 2017 Awards of Excellence recipients will be honoured at a ceremony on April 27.