What leadership roles or volunteer experiences have been important to you during your time at Maryland?
I developed and taught LGBTQQI Leadership, an undergraduate course examining how different leadership models provide frames into creating social change and personal growth. I structured the course goals on concepts of knowing (gaining knowledge and understanding), being (clarifying values), and doing (developing skills). Collaboratively, the class created, executed, and evaluated campus-based programs during Pride Month. In staying true to the philosophies of the course, I have maintained strong relationships with many of the students. In spring 2012, I will be traveling to an international student affairs conference with two former students to give presentations related to our class experiences.
Focusing my research and teaching on LGBTQ issues in the field of education has at times been isolating, lonely, and uninviting. Partnering with a friend who felt similarly, we co-founded Queer Grads, an interdisciplinary working group aimed at advancing queer scholarship and creating a community of LGBTQ graduate students. We coordinate monthly workshops to discuss issues faced by queer people in academia, including advisor relationships, navigating sexuality and gender in the classroom, conducting “me-search” and “backyard” queer research, and other relevant topics. We also organize social outings to foster a visible and supportive collective of LGBTQ and ally graduate students.
Safe Space is a weekly discussion group for LGBTQ and questioning students, providing an environment to navigate identity, coming out, transitioning, and other issues. When I began facilitating Safe Space in fall 2011, no students attended the meetings. At the end of the semester, there was an average attendance of 12 students. Through targeted outreach and partnering with student groups and campus offices, I hope to increase average weekly attendance to 20 students. As I am involved with campus outreach programs and initiatives, I refer students to become involved with LGBTQ curricular and co-curricular activities beyond Safe Space when relevant.
How will you make a positive difference in the world?
I advocate for social justice through my research, teaching, and service. These professional responsibilities complement one another as I have intentionally integrated my passion for serving LGBTQ people across all three.
My research broadly examines experiences of LGBTQ individuals in higher education. I have published and presented studies about LGBTQ students’ relationships with faculty/staff, LGBTQ philanthropy, classroom climate for gender non-conforming students, impact of campus and national policies on LGBTQ individuals, LGBTQ student leadership, queer pedagogy, and LGBTQ graduate student involvement, among other topics. As a critical quantitative researcher within LGBTQ scholarship, I utilize large-scale data sets to yield impactful results while maintaining representation across the queer spectrum.
As an instructor, I connect with students personally to create meaningful and transformative experiences that sustain beyond the classroom. In discussing my teaching, one student wrote that “he not only cares about what he does in this class, but also has a true passion for it. He is a very active leader and activist in terms of [the] LGBTQ community…and keeps inspiring so many people with his heart, soul, and mind. I’ve never met a man who inspired so much like him.”
My service directly impacts my research and teaching. For example, co-founding Queer Grads allowed me to understand more deeply the complexity of graduate student involvement and community development. Advocating for a graduate concentration in LGBTQ Studies through the President’s Commission on LGBT Issues has given me a unique perspective on the bureaucracy and difficulty of legitimizing queer scholarship in academia.