Indiana State University Newsroom

Indiana State alumnus receives national award for dissertation

May 20, 2015

Research sometimes takes unexpected turns, but it paid off for a two-time Bayh College of Education alumnus who received national recognition for his dissertation on LGBT resource centers.

Burr Hartman of West Terre Haute received the Standing Committee for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Awareness Research Recognition Award from the LGBTQ division of the American College Personnel Association - a national organization for student affairs professionals and teachers of professionals.

"I'm a member of the LGBT community and I've always been interested in what colleges and universities can do to help support this community, but growing up there were no resources available for people like me," Hartman said. "I don't know that if there were any available I would have used them, but since the first center was established in the ‘70s there's never been anything written on it from the student point of view."

Because the Midwest has more LGBT resource centers than any other region of the country, Hartman focused his research on students who are active at the centers at Purdue University, Indiana University at Bloomington and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Between the three schools, Hartman interviewed 30 students who self-disclosed as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender. Students shared their personal struggles and successes living openly on campus and gave Hartman insight into the centers' impact on their lives through things such as safe zones and gender identity and gender expression programming.

"(The student interviews) were great because it was like sitting down and talking with my best friends. I knew what they were going through, but I didn't have these types of services available when I was a student," he said. "While still needing a place to educate and promote things like safe sex and mental health awareness, as I hypothesized, the LGBT community no longer needs the resources as much as we need a place to go and talk about what is going on in our lives."

In March, Hartman received his award at a ceremony in Tampa after learning he had won a week before graduating in May 2014 with a PhD in educational leadership and a master's degree in student affairs and higher education.

"I learned so much more from my dissertation than APA formatting," he said. "You go into a dissertation thinking you know the end point, but along the way you discover things you never expected."

Hartman submitted the topic to the Association for the Study of Higher Education conference and has been in talks about turning his dissertation into a book. He also plans to submit a book chapter on transgender issues in higher education.

"Even as a member of the community, I'm not aware of everything, especially trans issues, which I'm very interested in and where my research will be going," he said. "Although most universities have sexual orientation in their anti-discrimination policies, many don't include anything on gender expression or gender identity, so there's still a lot of work to do. At first, this was just about following steps to a PhD behind my name, but it's really changed me and helped me know more about the community than I have ever known."

Writer: Betsy Simon, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-7972 or

Photo: - Burr Hartman