Professor studies LGBT college experience
Colin Wiebrecht’s involvement in the LBGT Resource Center made him feel like he had a second family away from home during his first year at MSU. But one aspect of the then-freshman’s life was not as welcoming — his roommate, who he believed showed a bias against gay people.
The social relations and policy sophomore didn’t feel safe in his dorm; just being in the same room as his roommate was stressful. Wiebrecht had stumbled upon offensive tweets on his roommate’s Twitter, and when confronted, his roommate’s defense of the tweets were “totally not the right things that people should be saying.”
“You could say my living situation was bad for my academics for a little while,” said Wiebrecht, who was able to remedy the situation quickly. “It just messed up my sleep and stress levels.”
The experiences of students in MSU’s LGBTQ community are the subject of the latest phase in a study conducted by higher, adult and lifelong education professor Kristen Renn. Entitled the National Survey of LGBTQ Student Success, the study aims to examine the lives of LGBTQ students during their first year at university.
Renn conducted the first phase of the study at the Midwest Bisexual, Lesbian, Gay, Transgender Ally College Conference in February, where she collected over 900 survey responses and conducted 60 in-depth interviews.
“The purpose of the study was to find out personal resilience factors, as well as environmental factors that help LGBTQ students succeed,” Renn said.
For Wiebrecht, the LBGT Resource Center continues to be a major facet of his life at MSU.
“You come here for support — It’s just a nice, safe place you can come to anytime,” Wiebrecht said of the center. “I obviously used the resources here to figure out what I could do.”
Renn said substantial research has been done on the negative climate towards the LGBTQ community at U.S. universities, but there is no research about what tools they use to succeed.
“In spite of (negative campus climate), a lot of LBGT students are successful, academically and personally,” Renn said. “What are the factors that go into that?”
The current phase of the study will spend this academic year focusing solely on MSU students by interviewing a group of freshmen LGBTQ students four times throughout the year and asking them questions about identity and what’s happening with them on campus personally, academically and socially.
Although the study currently only focuses on MSU students, doctoral student Blue Brazelton said the study will retain its national perspective.
The researchers intend to seek funding to conduct similar surveys in universities across the nation.
“Even though this next phase is focusing on just MSU students, we try and make generalizations for any campus,” Brazelton said.
Renn still is looking for more students to include in the study. Interested students can apply at http://www.lgbtqsuccess.net.