University of Texas at Austin | Intern Researcher | 06.07.2006 - 10.15.2006
Independent Study, EDP F379L, Spring 2006
Faculty Supervisor: Dr. Lucia Gilbert, Executive Vice President & Provost
Internship Supervisor: Ixchel Rosal, GSC Program Coordinator
The Gender and Sexuality Center (GSC) is a part of the Office of the Dean of Students at the University of Texas at Austin. "The Center provides a safe space for all members of the campus community to explore and organize around issues of gender and sexuality" (GSC Mission Statement). The Center has a library, media center, and public computer station. Also, throughout the school year, the GSC develops programs for students, faculty and staff relating to topics about Women, the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay men, bisexual, transgender, and questioning) community and their allies.
I spent three months as a research intern at the Gender and Sexuality Center (GSC). This was a unique placement, in that it provided me with both research and internship experience. I spent a portion of my time, researching and constructing a brochure for the center exploring the topic of Homosexuality and Christianity. Also, I started an outline for a Women's Pamphlet that will be called "The Women's Way." The other half of my time was working in the center as an intern: interacting with faculty, staff and students; speaking and co-leading several GSC Freshman Orientation meetings, attending staff meetings, helping think of new and inventive programs for the GSC; reading various articles that pertained to women and LGBTQ issues (but were not a part of my research), and working on advertising material for the center. While at UT this was my best connecting experience because it bridges my interest in: helping others, social justice, religion, gay rights, art, and women studies.
Taken as a whole, the experience I gained around this research internship will be greatly beneficial to me in the future. I feel I have learned what it means to be a team player, gained creative ways to research, and enhanced my public speaking skills.
To me a team player is not only someone who takes on responsibility but shares in the responsibility, including asking questions, brain storming, and sharing ideas. In the first staff meeting I attended, I was not sure what was being discussing. This first meeting I decided to take the initiative that set the stage for the rest of my internship. I asked someone to explain to me the situation. After the staff member explained the past program another GSC staff turned to me and asked, "What do you think?" From then on, I found sharing my ideas became easier. The brain storming that happened during staff meetings allowed for many new programs to be initiated during my time at the GSC. I like to believe I had a small part in that.
Second, I was able to enhance my public speaking skills. Every week the GSC hosted a freshman orientation social that allowed freshman entering UT to learn more about the programs GSC led. I attend these meetings as a staff member and sometimes I co-lead the meetings. The leader usually helped facilitate the meeting for 30 minutes and then 30 minutes of social time happened afterwards. After helping facilitate the meetings it is good to look back and know how many of those same students are now active members of the GSC and working towards the GSC mission.
I also learned new and creative ways to research. I started at the GSC with the idea that I would give interviews to find content for the brochure. The sample questions for the interviews including questions such as, "What would be one thing you would tell a college student coming into the church/synagogue? If the student was a part of the LGBTQ community?" and "What does your holy text say about homosexuality?" I went to the Austin Multifaith Pride Service to collect contact information of clergy women and men from different faith communities including Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism. At the same time I was preparing for these interviews I had already started reading articles and books on the topic of Homosexuality and Faith. I realized after my first interview attempt, interviewing clergy was not exactly the best way to collect information about LGBTQ "college" students. Many of the clergy women and men had little experience with this age group and only a few had extensive experience and knowledge with LGBTQ individuals. I realized interviewing can be a very effective and strong tool depending on the subject, at the moment it was not a tool that would work for my brochure. I decided to take the research in a different direction. While practicing my researching skills, I realized two basic points: 1) there are things that work and don't work depending on what you are researching and 2) research is not only about reading articles; it is about relating to the subject at hand. I wished for the brochure to look and feel professional, but felt the content of the brochure needed to relate to college students; they were the core audience for the brochure. I spent time reading old LGBTQ/Religious brochures, books relating to coming out in the church/synagogue, and professional journals. After researching professional information, I turned to the internet for other ideas. I found movies that are apart of the pop culture of this era, magazines such as "Bitch" that relate to college students and read college students coming out stories. Specifically, one book I read was called, "Coming out Young and Faithful" by Leanne Tigert and Timothy Brown. This was a collection of stories written by LGBT students, age 14-24 years and their journey of religion, spirituality and faith and their struggle to find acceptance of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. In my research I took the initiative to intersect professional and pop culture ideas.
In finishing, I am reminded of a quote by Frank Lloyd Wright. He stated, "I know the price of success: dedication, hard work, and unremitting devotion to the things you want to see happen." I have heard people speak indifferently about their first experience in the work force. For me, the experience at GSC was one of dedication, hard work, and unremitting devotion to the things I want to see happen in our society! As a social worker and a future minister, I have seen and read LGBTQ community experiences with the church/synagogue. Making a brochure for LGBTQ college students on Homosexuality and Sexuality is a small step in my life, but hopefully will help someone through their struggle to find the acceptance and love they deserve, no matter their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. I feel my time interning at the GSC was a growing experience and a success!
After my internship was over in early August, I extended my time at the GSC for two more months. I worked on publicity and advertising material, along with continuing the Women's Way Pamphlet until Mid-October when I turned the project over to a staff member of the GSC. After I left my position officially in October, I continued to be an active part of the GSC as time allowed until my graduation.