Personal identity, gender and sexuality growing topics of discussion at Parkland
Aside from gaining knowledge about a particular field of study, part of the learning experience for college students is also about discovering who they are as well as understanding and engaging in the world around them. In addition to the things that students learn through course curriculums, the academic experience also provides lessons about life outside of a classroom setting. Some of the conversations students are having on campus deal with gender roles, personal identity and sexuality.
When it comes to the occupational aspect of college degrees, students are becoming more interested in pursuing careers that might fall outside of the stereotypical role they may identify with pertaining to gender. According to the Institutional Research and Accountability department at Parkland, 15 percent of degree seeking women in occupational programs are majoring in nursing, and 7.2 percent of degree seeking men in occupational programs are majoring in computer network system admin. These are the top career choices for women and men, respectively. Although these numbers seem to indicate that students are enrolling in courses that are historically thought of when it comes to gender roles, some students are beginning to think outside of the box.
Director of the Counseling and Advising Center, John Sheahan explained that the courses students are taking haven’t changed all that much but the careers that they are interested in has.
“It isn’t so much, I don’t think, a matter of classes but a matter of careers; what kind of careers they want,” Sheahan said.
He explained that some students choose careers that are not traditionally associated with their particular gender. He also said that students who choose an atypical career may have somewhat of an advantage to help them stand out in their field.
“I think that what we try to stress is that students should go where their passion is,” Sheahan said. “Since that gender might be under represented in the field it provides a good opportunity for those students who then go into a non-traditional field.”
Tanino Minneci is a student development advocate who works in the Center for Academic Success (CAS) at Parkland. He explained that there is a bigger conversation happening on campus about gender, perhaps not from an administrative viewpoint but he sees it taking place on a regular basis as part of an organization that deals with gender issues at Parkland.
In addition to the work Minneci does in CAS, he is also an advisor for Parkland Pride. Pride is a club that helps raise awareness about LGBTQ related issues. He explained that the club meets once a week and provides a safe place for students to discuss these issues, learn more about themselves and perhaps re-evaluate their ideas surrounding gender roles.
“Pride is a student group that focuses on having conversations and events to just sort of raise awareness and have a safe place to have discussions about LGBTQ issues,” Minneci explained. “It’s for not just the LGBTQ community but also for allies to have sort of a safe space to talk.”
Counselor and International Student Advisor, Joe Omo-Osagie agrees that topics such as gender and sexuality should be openly discussed at Parkland.
“I think it has probably been important, but important enough to be discussed by a lot more people? We have a small percentage of students, always, who want to talk about it,” Omo-Osagie said.
As a former Parkland student, Omo-Osagie explained that the LGBTQ community hasn’t necessarily grown but is recognized as part of the Parkland student body more so today than it has been in the past.
“I was a student here thirty- something years ago and it wasn’t discussed then but we knew through just looking around that there were transgendered people here at that time, and there were gay men and women here at that time. However, we just did not talk about it then,” Omo-Osagie said.
Omo-Osagie stated that a more diverse student body may be part of the reason why these issues are now being discussed on a more regular basis.
In addition to counseling and advising, Omo-Osagie also teaches a human sexuality course.
“We look at the whole spectrum of sexuality,” Omo-Osagie explained. “First of all we talk about the history of teaching human sexuality as a course itself. We talk about Kinsey and Kinsey’s scale of sexuality. How sexuality, at least defined by Kinsey, is not just a dichotomy of male- female, heterosexual – homosexual, but all the sexualities in terms of a continuum from asexuality to pansexuality and everything in between.”
Omo-Osagie also explained why he thinks this sort of education is relevant when it comes to student development.
“We need to understand because, with more information, you make less mistakes,” Omo-Osagie said. “To me, the conversation has to be had. We don’t talk enough, honestly, about it. We talk about sex a lot but we’re not honest about it. We’re not direct about it.”
Students who are interested in discussing gender issues can take part in Pride meetings. The group meets every Friday at 1 p.m. in room U114, which is located in Student Life. Students who may be interested in changing careers can visit the Counseling and Advisor Center for assistance with developing an academic plan.