Athens, GA

“I really find interest in research. I was a librarian before, working on my PHD, at a community college. I was doing a lot of things outside the library with queer and trans students. I was the advisor of the GSA there. I was even working to develop the Safe Zone Program but then I remembered when I was a student in my four-year institutions I never went to community college, we had LGBT offices, we had lots of programs and resources that we didn’t have at the community college. A lot of students were coming to me because I was the only openly trans person at that institution and they needed support. Which is great, but I didn’t have the time to devote because I was a librarian. I didn’t have time to build the resources I wanted to see. And so, I was looking around and finding that’s kind of the case with community colleges. It’s like only two in the country have a LGBT center. So, there were these challenges that weren’t really addressed in the literature because there isn’t a lot of research out there about trans and queer community college students. I wanted to be a part of addressing that which has lead my path to a PhD program. I was like if I have a PhD I could make a larger impact through research than I can maybe as an LGBT director at one institution.

There was an effort at the community college I was working at with a student who was trans and talking to me at the beginning of the semester. He was like, I figured out on my own how I can change my name in the system. And so, he basically found someone in the IT department to change it for him, they did it for him and we included it in our Safe Zone training to you know let students know that you could do this. But they (the college) didn’t want to publically announce that students could do this. I think it’s probably the spectacle or the publicity.

So, I realize that higher ed, you know, colleges, universities, just like any institutions, are just inherently problematic. One of the things I appreciate about my program is that it does have a social justice focus to it, so in our classes we are always talking about centering marginalized voices and thinking of ways we can really change higher ed.  The more I learn about higher ed the more I’m like, Oh my god, am I sure? But it’s going to be like this at any institution and I feel good about being able to support and help those within this specific institution.”

Melvin also has an amazing Youtube Channel that you should check out here:

Basil Soper