Alex Lange, Ph.D. student, Higher Education and Student Affairs
Enriches trans student experiences
• Hometown: Plantation, FL
• Faculty Advisor: Dr. Jodi L. Linley, Associate Professor
• Degree Program: Higher Education and Student Affairs
• Expected Graduation Date: May 2021
• Please describe your research: I study how transgender students enter, learn in, and graduate from colleges and universities. Specifically, I look at the ways trans students thrive in education despite the barriers they experience in higher education. With their permission, I have followed a national sample of trans student participants since they began college in the 2018 fall semester.
• In simple terms, why does this research matter? Through transgender students’ viewpoints, I study the ways higher education institutions and administrators live up to (or not) their goals of inclusive, transformative education. Higher education institutions can be both places of great stagnation and life-changing transformation. My research aims to help institutions and their administrators live up to the transformational promises of a college education for all students.
• How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research? From day one! I served as Dr. Linley’s Research Assistant for my first two years at Iowa. I’ve worked with many faculty in the department of Educational Policy and Leadership Studies on several research projects and initiatives.
• How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa? As someone who studies higher education, I know some of the most profound learning gains one can experience comes from extended time with a particular project or task. Doing research during the past four years allowed me to take my classroom learning and put it into action. How does what I am studying about higher education show up (or not) in students’ everyday lives? Leading and being involved in research has done nothing but enhance my already transformative terminal degree experience.
• What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation? After graduation, I want to continue to improve college campuses for students marginalized by their race, gender, sexuality, class, and ability. This work could happen through either a faculty or administrative role. It’s much less about the specific position for me and more about where I can do the most good for the most amount of students possible.
• Does your research have connections to or implications for COVID-19? Please explain. Absolutely! As campuses shut down in-person operations in the spring 2020 semester, colleges sent students home in droves. For transgender students, they may have had to stay in places with people unsupportive of their gender identity. Not being on campus might mean becoming cut off from friendship networks or support systems students’ relied on to get through school. As campus administrators continue to weigh the degree to which they offer on-campus services, these students–like others–have to consider their physical health against their socio-emotional health. These decisions have implications for how these students persist through college.
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