The research that I have completed has been three months in the making- I got a bit of a late start in comparison to most of the other research fellows, as I spent last semester abroad. Returning and placing all of my work in this semester meant working faster, under tighter deadlines, and learning things on the fly as I worked to compose a comprehensive research paper. Over these three months, I have been able to research and put together a full report on the experiences of transgender students in higher education. Within these findings, I include reviews on implications of transgender students’ mental health needs, preferred names and their importance in the systems of higher education, suggestions of Greek life and their impacts on the transgender community, negative coping mechanisms more commonly found within the community, and a deep review on housing policy within a number of universities.
Participating in my first research experience has deeply influenced my abilities as a student this semester, and likely for the future as well. I have never engaged in research at a level such as this, and having this experience has broadened my research abilities as well as my abilities to formulate a comprehensive paper of this length and quality. I have, of course, written many papers in my time as a student, but delving into APA, literature reviews, and research at this level was a first-time experience for myself- for that, I am beyond grateful. It is an experience I consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity for. I have learned from this experience a number of highly valuable skills that I will be able to use throughout my career, I have learned valuable information about transgender students and their experiences in higher education in relation to my own experience in higher education as a transgender individual, and I find that I have accomplished something I didn’t think I would be able to accomplish in my university timeline.
Some skills I have gained include the ability to effectively find and analyze pre-existing literature. I relied heavily on the published research of other researchers for the success of my own paper, and being able to find papers that have relevant information was significantly harder than I imagined it could be. At first, I attempted to judge based on titles whether or not pieces would be beneficial for my own piece. It took a few solid weeks of me trying and failing to incorporate pieces into my own research for me to realize that I was looking for the entirely wrong type of paper and type of information. But, once I was able to refocus and figure out what I needed, the paper became a breeze. I have read so many residential life and housing policies that I could probably spout verbatim a lot of the common policies. I also created my first APA style chart, which was an absolute pain to figure out but it made completing it that much sweeter.
But, I also gained a real understanding of the state of transgender students in higher education and residential life and housing within higher education institutions. As a transgender individual myself, I have been struggling with understanding how I fit within a university setting, and how I’m supposed to navigate most elements of residential life. I was watching my friends at Penn State, which has highly supportive policies in place for students, and wondering where my resources were and if I just happened to pick a university that wasn’t as invested in their LGBTQIA students. I’ve had many questions regarding resources, many questions as to why we don’t have the same supports in place, and many of these requests have fallen perhaps not unheard, but without action. Being able to step up and begin serving my community and helping those with similar experiences to me has been such an important step in my role as a leader on campus. I felt that things need to be done, and I sincerely hope that by doing this research perhaps my requests and recommendations will be honored. However, I don’t want this paper to be perceived as a personal list of demands- these are issues faced by most- if not all- transgender students, and we all deserve the support we need to succeed emotionally in order to guarantee our highest potential success academically.