Student Spotlight September 2018
"Brandon is a second year MA student who plans to pursue his PhD in Applied Sociology at UoL upon completion of his Master's degree in May 2019. He works as a teaching assistant in a large section of Intro to Sociology taught by Dr. Mark Austin. Brandon's research focuses on gay men's and lesbians' attitudes toward and experiences with committed relationships in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision requiring all states to recognize same sex marriages."
-Dr. Patricia Gagné, Sociology, Professor and Director of Graduate Studies
When you are a part of the LGBT community it is important to search out places that you feel will be safe and affirming. Both my partner and I were applying for graduate school in numerous cities around the country. After receiving acceptance letters, we finally decided on moving together to Louisville so that I could attend UofL and so he could attend Spalding University to work towards a Psy.D. Degree. UofL being named as a top 25 most LGBT friendly university certainly helped.
My research interests focus on same-sex relationships, LGBT discrimination, and crimes against the LGBT community.
I became heavily interested in relationship dynamics for same-sex couples about a year ago when I was reading literature on relationship characteristics. I quickly realized that while research exists, it is sometimes inconsistent and lacking in in-depth detail. Quantitative research has shown certain dynamics exist, but the research does not fully explore why these dynamics exist. Furthermore, most research on relationship dynamics was completed prior to nationwide marriage equality.
I am also interested in discrimination against the LGBT community and crimes against the LGBT community, especially in regard to the way society reacts to these crimes and the effect reactions have on individual well-being.
My current research focuses on a number of dynamics in same-sex relationships, including individuals self-defining commitment, issues of infidelity and emotional cheating, money management, marriage, social media usage within the relationship, degree of familial acceptance, and the effect of the June 2015 marriage equality ruling on relationship well-being. I am currently conducting in-depth interviews to obtain data.
Being a part of the LGBT community, I have held the belief that more researchers need to take a standpoint perspective when they study their population of interest. I personally draw from Dorothy Smith and Patricia Hill Collins (thank you Contemporary Theory!) who believed that individuals within a social group are better equipped to understand certain aspects of the world they live in rather than an outsider looking in.
Sociology is an overwhelmingly large field of study. You can have 100 sociologists in a room and there could very well be little to no overlap in areas of study within Sociology. This is what excited me as I did my undergrad in Psychology, mainly with a focus in social-psychology. I was able to quickly transition to a focus more on group-interactions with my research interests. I have found my home.
Two things stand out. First, as a graduate teaching assistant I am able to gain valuable teaching skills and am able to shape the future of our undergraduate students, especially for first-semester freshmen. Second, I truly enjoy the small class sizes of graduate classes. The professors get to know each and every student and are able to tailor their class to specific research interests of each student. When professors are able to provide relevant examples to each graduate student, we truly get to experience the “ah-hah” moments.
Time management and self-care are major issues I have seen among graduate students. We are expected to attend class, read ungodly amounts each week, teach, work on research, and more. Sometimes it just does not fit into our schedules and we neglect self-care in order to complete everything on time.
I realized in my second semester of grad school that there is no way I could make it through all five years of my program if I were to continue to neglect self-care. I now set a strict work/school/personal time schedule. From 5pm on Friday until 8am Monday I do not work on school work. The weekend is my time to unwind and take care of myself and my relationship. I approach each weekday as a normal 9-5 job and work on tasks in that time period.
My partner and I recently bought a house in Louisville where we live with our two dogs, Oliver and Lucy.
A talent you have always wanted: Musical talent. I’ve never been able to learn an instrument or sing on key. I don’t have a musical bone in my body. Oh well.
Favorite quote: “The grass is greener where you water it.”