a professor talking in front of her students

Teaching difficult topics: managing discomfort in the classroom (2024 edition)

[This event will be held in English. A French session is taking place on March 25.]

Are you a university professor seeking innovative ways to teach challenging topics? Do you want to learn how to manage discomfort in the classroom effectively? 

Join us to hear firsthand testimonies from experienced colleagues, gain insights into their teaching methodologies, and discover practical suggestions for handling difficult classroom situations that arise around complex and sensitive subjects such as historic or contemporary racial injustice, sexual violence, health issues, LGBTQ+ issues and war, among others.  

This event is an opportunity to engage in meaningful discussions, share experiences, and learn from peers. This 2024 edition will begin with a one-hour panel discussion, followed by 30-minute breakout room group discussions and a 30-minute live Q&A session. 

Don’t miss this chance to enhance your teaching skills and create a more conducive learning environment for your students! 

For this second edition, our panelists are: 

  • Angel Foster (Faculty of Health Sciences)
  • Brenda Macdougall (Faculty of Arts)
  • Baljit Nagra (Faculty of Social Sciences)
  • Jess Whitley (Faculty of Education)

Dr. Angel M. Foster

Angel M. Foster

Faculty of Health Sciences

Dr. Angel M. Foster is a Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Ottawa. She holds a doctorate from the University of Oxford in Middle Eastern Studies, an MD from Harvard Medical School, and both master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Stanford University. Dr. Foster is a global abortion researcher and leads projects in 22 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and North America. She has authored more than 100 articles and co-edited three books; she also led the most recent revision of the Inter-Agency Field Manual on Reproductive Health in Humanitarian Settings. Dr. Foster serves as the Chair of the Board of Directors of the National Abortion Federation, Canada, the Co-Chair of the Safe Abortion Care Sub-Working Group of the Inter-Agency Working Group on Reproductive Health in Crises (IAWG) and the Editor-in-Chief of Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health.

Dr. Brenda Macdougall

Brenda Macdougall

Faculty of Arts

Brenda is the University Research Chair in Metis Family and Community Traditions at the University of Ottawa and holds a PhD in Native Studies from the University of Saskatchewan where she also worked. She is an expert in the history of Metis communities who works closely with traditional knowledge keepers to understand the cultural values and contexts that have shaped the Metis world. As a professor of Native/Indigenous Studies and as someone who has only taught students from this lens, she’s had to give a lot of consideration to teaching difficult subjects. The Indigenous Studies classroom is a space where ideas of race and racism and the questions of sovereignty are at the forefront as we address conflicting ideas about land and territorial rights. Navigating these complex teaching spaces is at the heart of Indigenous Studies pedagogical practices.

Dr. Baljit Nagra

Baljit Nagra

Faculty of Social Sciences

Dr. Baljit Nagra is a tenured Associate Professor in the Criminology Department at the University of Ottawa. Both her research and teaching are geared towards racial justice, with a focus on race relations, national security, and surveillance. Her intellectual interest is in learning how racial boundaries are transformed through a language of gender, religion, and security. Hence, through her research, she aims to understand how racial discourses are rearticulated in the ‘War on Terror’. Her work has been published in highly-ranked refereed journals such as Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, the British Journal of Criminology, the Canadian Journal of Sociology, and the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies. She is also the author of a book titled Securitized Citizens: Canadian Muslims Experiences of Race Relations and Identity Formation Post 9/11, which was published by the University of Toronto Press.

Dr. Jess Whitley

Jess Whitley

Faculty of Education

Jess Whitley’s research and teaching focuses on inclusive education practice and policy, teacher preparation for inclusive education and the wellbeing of children and youth with mental health issues. She is a Professor of Inclusive Education in the Faculty of Education at the University of Ottawa and is currently serving as Vice-Dean, Research and Professional Development. Jess is currently leading a three-year SSHRC-funded partnership grant focused on student attendance, engagement, and mental health in collaboration with school boards and over a dozen community agencies. 


This event is organized by the Office of the Provost and Vice-President Academic Affairs in response to the mandate of the Senate Committee on Academic Freedom to ensure training and support activities for our academic community.

If you require resources for teaching assistants, please consult the TLSS page Training for Teaching Assistants, which features the "Managing challenging conversations as a TA" webinar, offered earlier this winter, along with related resources.

If you require accommodation, please contact [email protected] as soon as possible.
Date and time
Mar 5, 2024
4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Format and location
Via Zoom
A French session will take place on March 25.
Faculty members
Available to uOttawa full-time professors (tenured or tenure-track) and part-time professors.
Organized by
Academic leadership