Professor Receives Award to Study Mental Health of Transgender College Students.
Sarah Lipson, assistant professor of health law, policy & management, has been selected as a William T. Grant Scholar. The five-year, $350,000 award will support Lipson’s research on the mental health of transgender and gender nonconforming college students.
The William T. Grant Foundation supports research to improve the lives of young people in the United States. Each year, it selects four to six early-career researchers working in this area for the Scholars Program.
“An increasing number of young people in the US identify as transgender or report questioning their gender identity, signaling an urgent need for research to better understand the experiences of this growing population,” Lipson says.
Lipson will examine how college and university policies around name changes, student health insurance coverage, gendered bathrooms and housing, and antidiscrimination policies affect the mental health of trans and gender nonconforming students. A small body of exploratory research suggests that such policies uniquely affect trans and gender nonconforming students, who Lipson and other researchers have shown to have much higher rates of suicidality and other mental health issues than their cisgender and gender conforming classmates.
“Yet, there is an utter dearth of empirical evidence actually linking discriminatory campus policies to the enormous mental health inequalities that have been documented in TGNC populations,” Lipson says. “This research is essential for informing policy changes moving forward, and for advancing equity.”
To gather such evidence, Lipson will leverage the data and extensive reach of the ongoing Healthy Minds Study.
Co-led by Lipson, the Healthy Minds Study is the most comprehensive national survey focused on mental health in college student populations. The annual, web-based study has been fielded at more than 350 colleges and universities, with more than 350,000 student respondents to date. The de-identified data are publicly available, and power a data visualization tool and an “economic case” calculator to help campus practitioners, policymakers, advocacy organizations, and student groups make changes at the campus level.
As a WT Grant Scholar, Lipson will also conduct qualitative research to better understand the lived experiences of trans and gender nonconforming students through semi-structured interviews with 40 undergraduates from a diverse set of campuses. This qualitative research will prioritize trans and gender nonconforming students of color, to better understand students’ experiences within the context of intersectional identities. At every step of the research process, Lipson’s work be informed by an advisory board of trans and gender nonconforming students and advocates.
“I am thrilled to be selected as a WT Grant Scholar,” she says. “This opportunity will provide me with the resources and mentorship to be able to fill crucial gaps in evidence to support equity for trans and gender nonconforming students,” she says.
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