Ashley Taylor (left) had the opportunity to intern with the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, D.C. while she was a doctoral student at Iowa State. She is pictured here with two of her co-workers. Contributed photo.

Iowa State prepares scholar who researches sexually diverse adults

Iowa State University recognizes that preparing students as next-generation scholars in an increasingly diverse and global society means encouraging them to explore opportunities off campus and around the world.

In Ames, the support Ashley Taylor received as a doctoral student in human development and family studies allowed her to survey more than 700 Iowa State students who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or part of another sexual minority for her dissertation.

But Iowa State also provide Taylor the opportunity to attend the Summer Institute on Sexuality, Culture, and Society at the University of Amsterdam, and intern with the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, D.C. Those experiences gave her the chance to impact policies relating to diversity and inclusion, and improve the lives of those who identify as LGBTQ+.

"At Iowa State, I was exposed to other ways of thinking which was very helpful," Taylor said. "I was always encouraged to seek opportunities outside of the university if I needed to. Without those opportunities, especially the internship at the Human Rights Campaign, I would not be where I am today."

When Taylor came out as a lesbian to her parents at 19, their reaction was unexpectedly negative. She started to take notice of the impact of parental reactions when her peers came out, and wondered about the influence of family on LGBTQ+ individuals. Taylor also began looking at micro-aggressions — unintentional or intentional slights against a person because of others' biases.

"Over time, these experiences accumulate and they negatively impact people in ways they may not understand at the time," she said.

Today, Taylor is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Stigma and Resilience Among Vulnerable Youth Centre at the University of British Columbia. Her research continues to focus on sexual minority young adults including: transgender youth health, safe spaces for LGBTQ+ youth, and how gay/straight alliances impact student well-being.

She thanks Iowa State and her major professor, Tricia Neppl, for the encouragement that led to worldwide opportunities in her field that she never imagined.

"To be competitive for an international job, it helps to be able to show you can work with individuals from a diverse background," she said.