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Proposal: LGBTQIA+ and Low Income Students Contact Zones at BMC

Proposal for Contact Zones of LGBTQIA+ and Low Income students at BMC 

For our "Expanding Our Contact Zone" project, we will explore the contact zones of the low income community and LGBTQIA+ community at Bryn Mawr College. To do this, we will explore both sides of each contact zone in context of Bryn Mawr College and its history. Then we will determine where these contact zones intersect to discover how they relate to each other. 

LGBTQIA+ Contact Zone: 

For the LBTQIA+ community and its contact zone in relation to Bryn Mawr College, we will go to various sources around campus to find out more information about how this contact zone evolved over time. In addition to this we will also explore how this contact zone exists within Bryn Mawr College in current day. In the first steps of this exploration, we will go to Bryn Mawr College's Archives in order to learn the historical significant and evolution of the contact zone of BMC and the LGBTQIA+ community. When we do this we will try to focus on primary and secondary sources in order to find the most accurate facts. Some of the information that we would look for includes: who was the first LGBTQIA+ student/ faculty member to join the college, how/if Thomas's sexuality effected the admission policy, and how gender pronouns were integrated into the Bryn Mawr College's introductory policies.  

In addition to the Archives, we will also go to the Admissions Office in order to find out certain facts about how admissions categories expanded and became more adaptive as time progressed. For example we may ask when was the gender category changed to accommodate students who may not identify as a female. Also, we may ask if and how admission policy has changed in accordance to gender and sexuality in the past few decades, and whether this change was due to law or due to the college's desire to change. By looking at Admissions and their policies, we can discover how the college's view of LGBTQIA+ issues has changed over the years. In addition to this, we will also look to see if there are any advantages currently if a young individual identifies as part of the LGBTQIA+ community. This may include financial aid, greater chance of admission, or even dorm housing. 

We may also try to see if we can interview members part of the Bryn Mawr College community who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community. In doing so, we would be able to interact with individuals who reflect the current state of the contact zone within BMC. THese individuals would include members of certain clubs, such as Zami, and certain officials such as Stephanie Nixon. Of course we would first ask their permission before conducting any type interview session. In addition to this, we may attempt to send out an email survey that contains questions, such as if the student identifies as coming from a low income family and/ or being part of the LGBTQIA+ community. Both of these methods would allow us to gather information on how current students view parts of their identity, and if these aspects of their identity had any effect on their admissions to Bryn Mawr College. Also, we would be able to see how people who are part of these communities view the nature of the contact zones with Bryn Mawr. 

Low Income Contact Zone: 

We were interested in researching about the history of Bryn Mawr accepting low income students because while touring Bryn Mawr College using the "Black at Bryn Mawr" tour we learned that the students who were accepted at that time were very wealthy and as a result privileged. Currently, the Bryn Mawr College student body is a lot more diverse. Therefore, we wanted to research when Bryn Mawr made the shift to accommodate many students of different financial backgrounds and whether the college has effectively accommodated students of lower income backgrounds. Some data that will be researched the percentage of students on financial and what other resources are offered to support these students.  

We will seek out similar approaches to find information about financial aid. Our first step is to reach out to the financial aid office to get in touch with an administrator who will be willing to answer some questions. First we will make sure whether we can reference this person in our project and whether she or he would like to keep in touch with our project. Some questions we will pose is what percentage of students are on financial aid, how is the amount calculated/ what factors are judged before making the decision of how much financial aid should be given and what other amenities are covered by financial aid besides tuition. We will also ask questions such as what are the difficult components of judging how much financial aid should be received such as what happens if a student on financial aid needs another semester to graduate. Furthermore, we will ask whether there are any specific situations that have stood out. We will also ask if this administrator has any idea of what other resources we can utilize to gather more research for our project.  

Next we will go to the admissions office after getting in contact with an administrator from this department. We will present questions such as how does financial aid needs have an affect on admission and whether international students and domestic students are treated differently. Specifically, we will figure out if there is a trend in the acceptance of students from different countries. For example are international students from a specific area getting admitted more so than students from another country and if so what is the financial reason behind this.  

Moreover, we will seek out students, specifically first generation students to interview them and ask questions such as how their financial standing has affected their experience at Bryn Mawr and whether it could be different if they were from a better financial situation. To do so we will figure out if we are able to send a mass email to the students of the college and have the students who choose to participate fill out a survey we will compose to narrow down potential interviewees. We will also seek out specific support groups and further figure out whether financial aid students’ needs are being fully satisfied. Furthermore, we will go to the Archives to locate any other information regarding financial aid we have missed such as when the first student was awarded financial aid and the circumstances behind that.  

Ultimately, both having a certain financial standing and being of a sexuality or gender outside the 'standard' role of being both cisgender and straight will have an effect on how a student will live at Bryn Mawr College. Both of these contact zones have significantly evolved over time and are currently being integrated into the community to encourage diversity. We want to investigate the history of these transitions and determine whether Bryn Mawr has successfully accommodated these people of different backgrounds, especially from the backgrounds of the first students who were accepted at Bryn Mawr College.


Anne Dalke's picture

Jessica and Melinda--
I’m intrigued by your project; I think that your tracing these strands (the increasing inclusion of both LGBTQ and lower income students) will give you an interesting history of the ongoing “redefinition” of “woman” @ BMC. To kick this off, you might want to look @ a project done by a student in my Critical Feminist Studies class a few years ago, who traced the various points @ which the category "woman" has altered, as the students @ the college began to include not only well-to-do white women, but also women of various nationalities, races, religions and classes: /exchange/critical-feminist-studies/aybala50/inside-history-women-bryn-mawr-college

Your proposal says “we” throughout; are you going to split up the tasks, w/ Jessica focusing on the LGBT questions, Melinda on ones regarding lower-income students? I’m also wondering what your plan will be for selecting students to interview; maybe Jody (who has much more experience than I do w/ this sort of research) could help you think about a deliberative way to pursue that process: a questionnaire to the whole first-year class? To our ESem sections only? With some follow-up interviews afterwards?

Finally, I’m wondering if, after you’ve gathered all your data, you’ll be focusing on the particular question of how the increasing diversity of the BMC student body has made the negotiations in the contact zone more vexed, the translations among us more challenging?