|sop version 2.0
||[Dec. 3rd, 2008|11:16 pm]
What's Your Purpose
|||||Stars - "Look Up"||]|
First version is here. Thanks so much for all the feedback. I tried to be more specific about things this time, though haven't been able to work on it as much as I would like due to homework (which is all done now! yay! Time for exams!)
In a first year philosophy class where we were discussing sexual ethics, a classmate shared her experiences with sex education in her Catholic high school. Soon everyone was telling stories about the sometimes embarrassing, sometimes outdated, and generally inadequate sex education lessons they had received. As I listened, thinking about how I did not have a story of my own to contribute, I realised that it was precisely the issue with my own sex education – I hardly remembered anything about it! Apart from a few scattered memories unrelated to the actual content of the class, the majority of the experience was completely forgettable. This was a problem. While I might have had the initiative to seek out reliable sources of information on my own when I needed it, I knew others did not. I soon learned that a growing movement was afoot to keep comprehensive sexual health education out of high schools, in favour of “abstinence only” programs that engaged in shaming, scare tactics, and the spread of medical misinformation – and that these programs had been shown to be both ineffective and damaging.
Since then, my goals have been to develop comprehensive and engaging sexual health education programs for middle and high school students, and to work with governments, school boards, teachers and parents to ensure that students receive the information they need to make the sexual health decisions that are best for them, both physically and emotionally. These programs would be community, culturally, and age-appropriate, and would include teacher training and outreach to parents. Before I can develop these programs, however, there are a number of questions I wish to address through my doctoral studies. Primarily, I want to learn what makes an effective sexual health education program that addresses the issues and information that middle and high school students need to know, while communicating in a way that they engage with and respect. I am curious if using different techniques to address different populations based on race, class and gender, for example, will have an impact on the effectiveness of a program. Through fieldwork in high schools and their communities, I want to evaluate existing programs to find best practices, that is, techniques and materials that students understand, relate to and want to use for themselves. I am interested in the cultural framework students use to evaluate sexual health information and make their decisions, and the programming that works best within that framework.
My interest in pursuing doctoral studies in anthropology is rooted in my passion for the subject. While many disciplines seek to understand why and how people do what they do, I chose anthropology specifically because of its emphasis on relating these explanations on the subject's own terms, in their own way, rather than according to the structures and standards of the observer's culture. I am constantly challenged and fascinated by my classes, and motivated towards pursuing graduate studies by my professors. I have developed strong research and writing skills through a variety of coursework. Some of my best work has included an analysis of the forces that submit female sexuality to outside definitions, research on trends in a pioneer cemetery near my house and the family it belongs to, and a critical review of the gendering of different categories of work at my campus. I have just completed a project analysing women's responses to constructions of femininity in birth control advertising, and next semester I plan to expand on that work in an independent study project. This research is allowing me to pursue my interest in how young people receive and respond to health information and how they create their medical knowledge.
I feel that the field of social work is where I can best apply my anthropological research. Ultimately, I want to empower youth to make healthy decisions that can be the building blocks of happier and more secure communities. I have extensive experience advocating on behalf of students at the university administration level, creating educational programs independently and with a team, policy creation and evaluation within the students' union and the university to create programs and opportunities for students. In 2007, I successfully lobbied for women-only workout times at the campus recreation centre in response to student requests. Though it was a controversial initiative that attracted national media attention, the service is quite popular and is a resounding success. Currently I am coordinating a collaboration between a number of student groups on a mental health awareness week, to be held in March 2009. This event will help fill a gap in the advocacy work currently being done on campus, helping to fight the stigma of mental illness. My work as a student leader has been acknowledged with four awards over the past two years, recognising my contributions to accessibility, the status of women, student government, and the academic and social life of the University of Toronto Scarborough.
The Joint Ph.D. program is an exciting and unique opportunity to combine my interests in anthropology and social work. The outstanding faculty, ample resources and the reputations of the School of Social Work and Department of Anthropology attracted me to the University of Michigan as an ideal place for the next part of my academic journey. In this forum I can contribute my excellent advocacy, health promotion and leadership experience while sharpening my skills in research and theoretical analysis. I see the possibility of creating sexual health programs that address the needs of high school students on their own terms, much in the same way anthropology examines other cultures. A number of UM faculty members have research interests that are similar to mine, and as such I would be excited to work with them. Among them are, in the School of Social Work, Dr. Oyserman's interest in the use of social and cultural identities to improve health and educational outcomes and Dr. Allen-Meares' work in educational settings. In the Department of Anthropology, Dr. Peters-Golden's research on medical education and the social construction of disease, and Dr. Padilla's work on medical anthropology and gender/sexuality are also intriguing. The scholarship of these faculty members is fascinating, and would be excellent guideposts as I conduct my own research.
The University of Michigan attracts me because of its vibrant academic and student life, offering a variety of opportunities for me to learn, grow and contribute my experiences and skills. I believe the Joint Ph.D. in Social Work and Anthropology would be the best path through which I can achieve my goals, and I look forward to the opportunity to participate in this challenging and rewarding academic community.