PhD scholar shares about ASU journey, analysis on how transgender narratives are shared and preserved

June 15, 2021

From Hannah Grabowski’s first year as a bachelor’s degree at Arizona State University to her current PhD student, her studies and free time have focused on supporting and advocating for others.

Grabowski promoted sexual health education and healthy relationships through ASU’s Devils in the Bedroom, worked with survivors of sexual and relational violence through the Sun Devil Support Network, and was the first director of sexual health and wellness for the student government on the Tempe campus. Today Grabowski mentors three undergraduate students who form the board of the new Accessibility Coalition at ASU.
Hannah Grabowski completed her dual bachelor’s degree at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 2018 and is now doing her doctorate in gender studies and two certificates in disability studies and sexuality studies.

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“I’m open to being disabled, non-binary and queer because I think this is not just a way to connect and connect with students, but visibility is important,” Grabowski said. “I am also open to being a first-generation, low-income college student.”

Grabowski attributes her motivation to stand up for others to lived experiences and perspectives that they have gained from bringing up a progressive family in Ohio.

“My mother, grandparents, and great-grandmother all identified as feminists, and members of my family worked in unions. Growing up in a low-income household has given me some perspective on fairness when it comes to classism, “they said. “I attribute it to my mother, who gave me resources at a young age to learn about different communities … it feels easy to me.”

Grabowski graduated from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences with a bachelor’s degree in Justice and Social Research and Women and Gender Studies in 2018. You are now doing a PhD in Gender Studies as well as two certificates in Disability Studies and Sexuality Studies, all from the School for Social Transformation.

“I’m very interested in how narratives of love and community – mainly within the transgender community, but also larger LGBT people – are preserved and archived,” said Grabowski.

One focus of Grabowski’s research is accessible, non-traditional archives that go beyond the typical university or museum environment and are well embedded in the community.

“I think it’s really important for trans people to have access to the history of their own community and how it can be presented and valued. I think there is a unique narrative that transgender life is exclusively traumatic and dysphoric. I think it’s important to understand these phenomena, but I think it’s just as important to see love and joy within the trans experience and community. “

As Grabowski’s research on material from the 1980s in the USA and Canada progresses to 2010, two questions are in the foreground: How do transgender representation and erasure in archives affect the sense of belonging in the community? And what can material and existential transscience offer archive science?

Grabowski shared more about her experience at ASU.

Question: What originally attracted you to ASU and what made you stay?

Reply: Both the women’s and gender studies program and law school are in the School of Social Transformation, and I haven’t seen a comparable program or school or community in other colleges. I was touring ASU and felt from the start that it was a welcoming place and even though it was so big it would be easy to find community. With my stay at ASU for my graduate program, I already had these relationships and connections with professors that I wanted to deepen. I had a really good support system here, so it made sense to continue my journey in a place that felt home and supportive, and where I could explore new research topics, but with the same people.

Q: Can you tell us more about your role in the Accessibility Coalition and its goals?

A: Part of the Accessibility Coalition and part of the disability is that there is no hierarchy – we’re all about collaboration – so even if we have a board for the undergraduate students, we don’t have a president or a vice-president; everyone is on the same playing field. As a mentor, I wanted to learn how to be a supportive future faculty member for undergraduate students and help educate the younger generation of students about resources and learn throughout the process what it means to organize and plan events.

The Accessibility Coalition is more than just about accommodation – it’s about the social atmosphere and emotional wellbeing of the disabled community. It is also about disabled access; we prioritize more than just a rights-based approach. The reason we proposed the Coalition Council is to work with our intersecting communities such as disabled women and disabled black students, international students with disabilities, and to create a culture of disability. We want visibility and presence and celebration of the disabled community – accessibility is more than just accommodation and barrier-free entrances to a building.

Q: What were your fondest memories of ASU?

A: I would say the Accessibility Coalition is one of them. And one of my greatest accomplishments during my undergraduate studies was the organization of free STI tests for hundreds of ASU students through the county health center and department.

Q: Which professors or mentors have positively influenced your experience at ASU?

A: In my bachelor’s degree, my PhD at Barrett (Honors College) was Dr. Jennifer Brian. I was having a really hard time my last semester and I went up to her and said, “I’m going to retire from Barrett; I want to exit; I can’t. ”And she hugged me and a piece of chocolate and then basically said,“ No, you’re not. ” It was this balance of emotional support and comfort and also academic support while at the same time saying, “I will challenge you because I know you can.”

And then in my graduate program, Dr. Lisa Anderson my advisor and someone who coached me on how to apply to a graduate school. Dr. Mako Fitts Ward taught me the most about how to be a feminist in higher education, in a bureaucratic university environment, and how to uphold my values ​​of liberation, love, and justice even when faced with difficult choices. And then Dr. Jessica Solyom who is like my best friend. She is a very caring and kind person; She will listen to me and not just give me advice. It is very meaningful to me.

Q: Tell us about the online course you are teaching this summer.

A: This is my first time teaching WST 460: Women and the Body and I thank Dr. Mako Ward for sharing her previous curriculum with me. We discuss the ways in which the body is rhetorically made and remodeled, how bodies are monitored and administered in society, and about body norms. It is also very important to me to showcase BIPOC, disabled and LGBT writers, artists and content creators.

Q: What are you hoping for after your doctorate?

A: I hope to stay in higher education and become an educator, faculty member, or professor in a school, be it a small liberal arts college or a large university. As long as I reach a student, I am happy. So I’m really open to different places in the United States, be it somewhere with a really robust gender studies program or if it works in other disciplines like philosophy or sociology.

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