Penn State Researcher Examines LGBT College Experience
In a report from GLSEN ( Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) , LGBT middle- and high-school students have an absence rate of more than seven times that of heterosexual students. These students were found to frequently be the target of harassment, which correlated with a lower GPA (grade point average) than students who were not subject to bullying.
However, research on what happens to those students once they graduate high school and continue on to college has been scant. This is something Kip Sorgen, a Penn State University doctoral student, is looking to change.
Sorgen, who studies at Penn State’s University Park campus in State College, has been working on his Ph.D. dissertation, “The influence of sexual identity on psychological and higher-education outcomes,” in the university’s College of Education for about a year, and expects to complete it by February.
He said the dissertation stems from the lack of research he saw on LGBT college students. He adds that often students are not asked about their sexual orientation on forms, which makes collecting data "problematic".
Sorgen is a resident of Ohio, and openly gay. He earned a BA at Ohio University and went on to work in the development office at Capital University in Columbus, where he was encouraged to continue his education. Sorgen said he particularly enjoyed working with students.
Continuing at New York University, he worked as the graduate assistant in NYU’s Office of LGBT Student Services for two years.
He then applied to Penn State for his doctorate because its higher-education program is one of the top-ranked in the country, and there were excellent researchers at the institution.
Some of the topics he has conducted research on for his doctoral work are:
- the changes in attitudes of undergraduates toward LGBT individuals and
- identity development of female-to-different-gender individuals.
In the summation of his research, he conduct a national survey of LGBT students, which will probe in what way stressors unique to these individuals effect their college experience, and their involvement with academic and social life while on campus.
Only two published reports on the experiences of LGBT college students have been issued within the last several years. Slow progress in this area, Sorgen says, may be attributed to a number of factors. One very important factor is that only two generations of college students have lived since homosexuality was declassified as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association.
Sorgen hopes to fuel further analyses of the LGBT college community.
“I feel like this is my way of advocating for the LGBTQ community, by producing research that is beneficial to higher education, and to people who work with college students and even to those who don’t. I want to continue to produce publications, analyze data and conduct studies that benefit the LGBTQ community through advancing knowledge.”