Instructor Zachary Patterson (Department of Neuroscience) partnered with third-year student, Nathalie Mensah, through the Students as Partners Program (SaPP) last fall to design learning materials that would contextualize neuropharmacological ideas and challenge students’ biases regarding substance use and addiction in BIPOC communities. The following blog shares Zachary’s reflections on the project and his experience working with a student partner. Read Nathalie’s reflection here.

This Students as Partners Program project was a great experience and learning opportunity for me. I had the pleasure of having Nathalie as a student in this course (NEUR

3204: Neuropharmacology) in a previous semester, and I appreciated having the opportunity to work with her to develop new content to improve the course.

We believe that it is important to broaden the scope with which we discuss the use of substances in different societies and cultures. Our goal for this project was to develop learning materials that would allow students to better understand how issues of substance affect BIPOC communities – both in Ottawa, as well as other parts of the world – and to highlight some of the many contributions to the field of substance use and addiction from BIPOC scientists.

For me personally, I was inspired to work in the field of substance use and addiction by a Black neuroscientist named Dr. Carl Hart. During many conversations with Nathalie and other BIPOC students in my class it became evident how important it is for BIPOC students to see better representation in the field of science, and that I wasn’t doing enough to explicitly highlight some of the ground-breaking research from BIPOC communities and scientists as it relates to our field.

Part of the inspiration for this project was to highlight these contributions and explore more of the traditional and historical uses of substances to BIPOC communities. Nathalie and I were both committed to ensuring that all students feel connected to the materials presented in class, regardless of their background and cultures.

I believe that through this SaPP project we have created a suite of learning materials that will not only improve the interest in and relevance of this course, but will also help reinforce some of the learning objectives, and ultimately have a lasting impact on BIPOC students in our program. I am extremely excited to implement these new materials into my course.