Transgender Student Retention: Summer Blog 1

Hi, my name is Matthew Scheller, and I am  a rising senior in the honors college majoring in applied psychology with a minor in queer studies. I am working alongside LGBTQA & Social Justice Center Graduate Assistant Emmett Griffith and Associate Director Erin Furey to look at transgender students and retention.

The current title of our research project is Transgender Student Retention, where our goals are to gain insight into the specific needs of transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) college/university students that could be met potentially through a retention model or strategy, and therefore may impact retention rates for TGNC students.

We hope to learn about what TGNC students would need from an institution that would better help them to remain in school, and we plan on using a survey and focus groups to learn about these needs.

So far, we are in the process of writing our literature review, having compiled a variety of sources pertaining to subjects such as retention strategies for LGBTQA and other marginalized groups of students, and experiences of TGNC college students, which can include topics such as mental health and perception of campus climate. We were able to come up with a few general themes to briefly summarize our sources, including the impact of support systems on transgender student success and engagement, influence of negative campus climate experiences on mental health, assumptions made about who TGNC people are and what they need, and largely, the lack of research about TGNC students. Currently, there is no existing literature that specifically focuses on TGNC students, so our literature review seeks to find the connections between existing literature about TGNC students and about retention and where our research may be able to fill in those gaps. Going forward, we plan to put together a survey and potentially focus groups where we would like to gather information from TGNC students regarding their needs and experiences at institutions and what they would need or like to see from institutions that may help them to stay in school.

Since there is no existing literature focused on TGNC students and retention, our work could be the first of its kind. With our work, an entire population of students that have been historically marginalized and overlooked by institutions when it comes to their specific needs may be finally recognized and may lead to a greater number of TGNC students staying in school.

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