Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Educational Leadership, Evaluation and Organizational Development

Degree Program

Educational Leadership and Organizational Development, PhD

Committee Chair

Brydon-Miller, Mary

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Sun, Jeffrey

Committee Member

Sun, Jeffrey

Committee Member

Pifer, Meghan

Committee Member

Early Jr., Joseph

Author's Keywords

higher education; LGBTQ+; Christian higher education; arts based action research


Though studies exploring the experiences of LGBTQ+ students on Christian college and university (CCU) campuses are increasingly prevalent, research continues to demonstrate that CCU environments are often unwelcoming. Gender and sexual minority students often face additional challenges or risks in attending a faith-based institution. To drive meaningful change, recommendations need to be tailored to individual institutions. This study sought to make meaning alongside LGBTQ+ students at a single institution – Baptist Heritage University (BHU) – with a decidedly appreciative approach. Grounded in Bronfenbrenner’s ecology of human development, we conducted an arts- based action research study to gain a deeper understanding of how LGBTQ+ students know themselves, and how they relate to other people and environments. To gather data, we held focus group meetings, individual interviews, and collaborated to compose pieces of music as a way of sharing stories and elevating the voices of LGBTQ+ students. Analysis of the interviews utilized the Listening Guide approach to identifying and understanding voices within an individual’s story. The data gleaned from the interviews would serve as the basis upon which the musical compositions would be created. We found that each co-researcher had a voice of advocacy and, that although vii their campus environment is not perceived as welcoming, they were able to identify employees and peers who have had a positive impact on their LGBTQ+ identity development. Typically, however, it is the expectation of LGBTQ+ co-researchers to anticipate an exclusionary environment. Because of BHU’s identity as a Christian institution, LGBTQ+ students may enter college at BHU assuming or expecting to be excluded or marginalized because of their gender and/or sexual identities. Still, co-researchers demonstrated resilience and remained hopeful that BHU can leverage its connections within the local community, especially those of faith communities, to promote LGBTQ+ inclusivity. In addition to their voices of advocacy, co-researchers are also exceptionally empathetic and compassionate. It is out of this responsibility for others that we collectively composed a piece of music to share with BHU as a resource for generating greater understanding and promoting empathy.

1. Haven Leigh.mp4 (11195 kB)
2 Faith.mp4 (14379 kB)
3. I Feel_This is Me.mp4 (11714 kB)
4. Growth.mp4 (11106 kB)
5 Happiness.mp4 (9600 kB)