University of Texas at AustinDivision of Diversity and Community Engagement

GSC Launches Research Project

By Ixchel Rosal

This year the Gender and Sexuality Center (GSC) within the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement has begun a research project to examine the impact of its Peers for Pride program.  The Gender and Sexuality Center provides opportunities for all members of the UT Austin community to explore, organize, and promote learning around issues of gender and sexuality. The center also facilitates a greater responsiveness to the needs of women and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, and ally (LGBTQA) communities through education, outreach and advocacy.

The primary goal the GSC’s Peers for Pride (PfP) program is to train peer facilitators to lead workshops about sexual orientation and gender identity across the UT campus. Students in PfP earn academic credit for their participation in the year-long program. During the fall semester they take a course entitled, “Confronting LGBTQ Oppression: Exploring the Issues and Learning the Skills to Communicate Them,” where students learn basic facilitation skills while taking an in-depth look at some issues facing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals. During the spring semester course, “Facilitating Dialogues on LGBTQ Oppression: Peers for Pride in Action,” peer facilitators have the opportunity to fine-tune their facilitation skills and lead workshops across campus.

The research study begun this year explores the narratives of Peers for Pride peer facilitators.  Through the lens of Harro’s Cycle of Socialization, the following research questions will guide the study:

  • How do facilitators conceptualize their participation in Peers for Pride?
  • Were facilitators able to develop a sense of agency and capacity?  In what ways did participation as a facilitator provide students with a greater sense of confidence that they could impact change and be effective leaders?
  • What implications emerge in terms of identity and peer leadership development?

Harro’s (2010) Cycle of Socialization articulates the process by which we are each born with a myriad of social identities (i.e. our social identity profile) related to gender, age, skin color, ethnicity, ability status, sexual orientation, etc, and are then socialized to play certain roles prescribed to those identities by an imbalanced social system of oppression.

This qualitative case study seeks to investigate the impact of participation in the Peers for Pride Program on peer educators by interviewing former Peers for Pride peer facilitators from the past five years.  According to Merriam, qualitative researchers are “interested in understanding the meaning people have constructed, that is, how they make sense of their world and the experiences that they have in the world” (2001, p. 6).

Two primary data collection methods will be used: semi-structured interviews with former PfP facilitators and document review. One-hour semi-structured interviews will be conducted with the participants. The semi-structured interviews were designed specifically for this project and will focus on how the facilitators conceptualized participation in the program, as well as how participation was situated within the context of the institution.  The interview will help establish rapport with the participant, collect base-line data, and address the study’s research questions.

SI research fellow Dr. Kiersten Ferguson and postdoctoral fellow Dr. Stella Smith, are working closely with GSC staff on the design and implementation of the study.  Results from the study are anticipated to be available in fall, 2014.  For more information about the study please contact Ixchel Rosal (Director, GSC) at rosal@austin.utexas.edu.

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