As stated in my last blog post, I am a Student Assistant at Pace’s LGBTQA & Social Justice Center and this summer, I have been working on a research project titled “Transgender/Gender Non-Conforming Students & Retention: A Family Intervention Model” which is about retention for transgender and gender non-conforming students, with Erin Furey, LMSW who is the Associate Director at the center. We are doing this research because currently, we as a society are lacking in support and research on transgender students in college, particularly in terms of retention. This lack of research leaves transgender and gender non-conforming students with no strategies to help them continue and succeed in school. Additionally, we hope that this research shines a light on the issues faced by the transgender community regarding their rights–or lack thereof–and how they are treated, and their unique stressors that lead them to possibly struggle more with staying in school than their cisgender counterparts.
At the time of the first post, I had begun my first round of research on transgender and gender non-conforming students and topics related to them. I has also read a number of articles and studies and done annotations on each of the articles. Since then, I have done a few more rounds of research and completed a full annotated bibliography. I have learned a few things through my research so far, including that transgender students are more at risk to abuse alcohol than their cisgender peers (Duke University School of Medicine, 2017). Mostly, however, concepts I thought I already knew were confirmed and validated with concrete information, such as that the retention of transgender students has a significant financial impact on insitutions (Mancini, 2011) and that services provided by university career centers often lack the knowledge and programming to successfully cater to transgender and gender non-conforming individuals’ specific needs and the challenges they face in career services (Barfield, H., Belke, L., and Scott, D., 2011).
It is incredibly difficult–in fact it is next to impossible–to find research directly regarding transgender students and retention. Because of this, much of the research I have read is instead about more general topic such as queer students, general retention, and queer stressors and even anti-queer violence. Some subjects come a bit closer, such as a study I read titled “Factors Affecting the College Choice of African American Gay Male Undergraduates: Implications for Retention” which studied the retention of gay African American men. This study found that their participants “identified two factors that seemed critical to their success in college: supportive relationships with peers and family.” This furthers our research by confirming the importance of supportive family relationships in queer individuals’ lives. The fact that it was a study done about the retention of queer students, even though none of them were transgender or gender non-conforming, made it an interesting and relevant study to read.
In regards to next steps, we are in the process of planning a focus group regarding our topic, and seeking approval from the institutional review board (IRB) to publish and circulate a survey for transgender and gender non-conforming students so we can gather our own information straight from the source of transgender and gender non-conforming students. Looking into the near future, we intend to create a dual intervention program for transgender and gender non-conforming students and their parents with the goal being that we ease tensions at home by answering parents questions that may upset the students in the hopes by educating the family, they will be better able to support their student which will lead to a rise in retention. We plan to submit this information in workshop format for educational and LGBTQA conferences and present our research, in the hopes to publish a full-length paper about strategies to increase university retention of transgender students.
Barfield, H., Belke, L., Scott, D. “Career Development With Transgender College Students: Implications for Career and Employment Counselors” Journal of Employment Counseling, American Counseling Association, 2011
Blakewood, A., DeVita, J., Strayhorn, T. “Factors Affecting the College Choice of African American Gay Male Undergraduates: Implications for Retention” NASAP Journal, 2008.
Mancini, Olivia “Attrition Risk and Resilience Among Sexual Minority College Students” Columbia Social Work Review, Volume II, 2011.
“Transgender College Freshmen Drink More, Experience More Blackouts” Duke University School of Medicine, 2017.