Spencer Dissertation Fellowships Program In Education Research

As national, state, and local educational leaders grapple with how to effectively address the needs of gender expansive students, more research is needed to inform policy. Existing research indicates gender expansive youth experience high rates of chronic social stressors such as victimization, discrimination, and rejection. These stressors have academic, mental health, and physical health consequences; however, implementing protective and affirming school policies may alleviate some stressors gender expansive students encounter.

My dissertation is composed of three interrelated but independent mixed-methods studies at the intersection of educational policy, school climates and health for gender expansive students. Study One is an exploratory document analysis describing the current educational policy and procedural landscape for gender expansive youth. Using a representative sample of school districts in Illinois, I create a profile of the existing types of policies and the kinds of districts implementing them.

Study One informs Study Two, a multi-site interview study examining why some district administrators may support changes to existing policies, different implementation strategies, and potential barriers to implementing policies concerning gender expansive students.

Finally, Study Three is a clinical study investigating how gender dysphoria, social stressors (particularly those experienced in school), and lack of social support contribute to poorer health in transgender populations through inflammation and immune deregulation pathways. Overall, these studies will provide a more comprehensive and deeper understanding of the academic environment for gender expansive youth and how their social environment influences their health, an issue of crucial importance for educational policy.

In no more than 10 double-spaced pages with one-inch margins, and at least 11-point Times New Roman font, describe the dissertation. This narrative document should have page numbers and the applicant’s full name and registered email address as a running header.

Include the goals of the project, its contribution to the field, and the significance of the work, especially as it relates to education. Place the project in context, and outline the theoretical grounding and the relevant literature. Describe the research questions and research design, the methods of gathering and analyzing data, and interpretation techniques. If preliminary findings or pilot data are available, these should be described briefly – especially if they illustrate how the applicant will be conducting thematic analyses or applying coding systems to the data. Lack of clarity in treatment of data with respect to the research question(s) is often a problem area in applications.

Please keep in mind that each proposal will be reviewed by some senior scholars familiar with the field and by others less familiar; thus, language specific to a field should be situated within an argument persuasive to a generalist audience.

The narrative discussion cannot exceed 10 double-spaced typed pages. An additional single-spaced bibliography (no more than two pages) of the sources most important to the project should be appended (works cited in the narrative discussion should be included).

The narrative discussion and bibliography should be uploaded as one document (12 pages total) within the online system. Appendices (charts, graphs, tables, questionnaires, etc.) may be included as technical and supplemental and do not count towards the limit; however, please be judicious in the quantity included, as reviewers are not required to review material in the appendices. Information essential to understanding the project should be included in the 10 page narrative (including any coding systems). Applicants should make the case for their research in the narrative.

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