The College of Education announces the final Dissertation of
for the degree of Doctor of Education
March 1, 2018 at 11:00 am / 123 Ball Hall
Major Advisor: Donna Menke, PhD
EXPLORATION OF THE EXPERIENCES OF SELF-IDENTIFIED LESBIAN DIVISION I STUDENT-ATHLETES IN THE UNITED STATES
ABSTRACT: In the world of Division I intercollegiate athletics, much remains to be understood about lesbian student-athletes’ experiences, educational practices, and conditions that promote their development. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine the academic and sport experiences of self-identified lesbian Division I student-athletes in the United States. In addition, the study aimed to understand how resources and strategies used by lesbian Division I student-athletes helped to establish or increase the level of comfortability and inclusivity within both environments. The research questions that guided this study were: 1) How do self-identified lesbian Division I student-athletes experience their higher education academic environment? 2) How do self-identified lesbian Division I student-athletes experience their sport environment? 3) How do resources and strategies used by self-identified lesbian Division I student-athletes help to establish or increase the level of comfortability and inclusivity within academic and sport environments? The underlying theoretical frameworks used in this study were interpretivism and phenomenology due to the study’s nature of understanding how participants experienced their academic and sport environments as lesbian Division I student-athletes. Data were gathered through semi-structured phenomenological interviews and document analysis then analyzed using open coding and thematic analysis in order to most accurately capture the essence of the participants’ academic and sport experiences. Three themes emerged from data analysis: 1) Self-Acceptance: Background of Support; 2) Visibility of the LGBTQ Community; and 3) Sense of Belonging. These themes encapsulated the full range of experiences in academic (i.e., interactions with faculty members, students, and experiences in the classroom and on campus) and sport (i.e., interactions with teammates, coaches, administrators, and experiences during team and athletic-related events) environments as well as resources and strategies used to establish or increase the level of comfortability and inclusivity within both environments. The experiences of the participants provided implications for practice so as to further establish and sustain environments of acceptance and respect so inclusion is the norm, not the exception. These recommendations for resource development continues the aim to make Division I intercollegiate athletics a growingly accepting and respectful place for lesbian student-athletes to thrive academically and athletically.