Empowering Students via Autoethnography Assignment: Fostering Inclusive Communities for Gender and Sexuality in Social Inequality Class

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autoethnography, campus climate, content analysis, LGBTQIA community, safe spaces


Discrimination is still a prominent and widely faced issue on college campuses across the United States, especially regarding gender and sexuality. In this research, we utilized autoethnography as a pedagogical methodology to illustrate and understand students’ experiences in the college environment, such as feelings of invisibility, isolation, being unsafe, danger, and unaccepted. This study explores the use of autoethnography to improve campus environments and analyzes perception changes within autoethnography as they relate to gender and sexuality. Data were collected from 146 students in SOC 3010 Social Inequality in the Fall of 2019 and Spring of 2020 courses at Utah State University. Participants were asked to write a term paper in which the provided topics included gender, sexuality, religion, race, and mental health. We used content analysis to evaluate the students’ submissions, which included themes such as exposure to people of different genders, limited perspective, learning about others' experiences, and having someone important in life that belongs to the LGBTQIA+ community". This study finds a positive change in perspective regarding gender and sexuality when autoethnographies are employed in the classroom.


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Author Biographies

Mehmet Soyer, Utah State University

Mehmet Soyer, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of sociology at Utah State University. His research agenda consists of examining the critical link between community response and the impacts of energy development through collective behavior, activism, and environmental inequality. He is also interested in pedagogical research to work on how to enhance safe and brave spaces for exploring perceptions of marginalized groups.

Sebahattin Ziyanak

Sebahattin Ziyanak, Ph.D. is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas Permian Basin. His research fields are in the subjects of delinquency, deviance, social organization, social movement, sociology of education, environmental studies, and race and ethnicity.

Leonard Henderson

Leonard Henderson, MS is a sociology PhD student specializing in Environment and Community. Leonard’s work concerns water politics in rural, high-amenity community transitions in the Intermountain West, and the role of racialized “wild west” cultural mythologies in structuring and organizing power in relation to interactions with water.

Rose Ethington

Rose Ethington is a former journalist and now a PhD student researching how the intersection of race and class alters systemic and interpersonal barriers for transgender and nonbinary students.

Rachel Walton

Rachel Walton, Ph.D. is a professor in the criminal justice program at Utah State University Eastern in Price, Utah. Author of first doctoral level dissertation and textbook to address “cold case” homicide investigation. Experienced criminal justice educator, textbook author, lecturer, criminal investigator and law enforcement instructor with over thirty years of service in law enforcement and investigation of major crimes.

Gonca Soyer

Gonca Soyer, Ph.D. is a lecturer of Psychology at Utah State University. She has a Master’s and PhD Degree in Human Development and Family Sciences. She has been teaching about families, relationships, child development and many more day-to-day life topics.

Audrey Thomas

Audrey Thomas is an undergraduate student in the Department of Sociology at Utah State University.

Ilyena Wagner

Ilyena Wagner is an undergraduate student in the Department of Sociology at Utah State University.

Emily Wells

Emily Wells is an undergraduate student in the Department of Sociology at Utah State University.


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How to Cite

Mehmet Soyer, Ziyanak, S. ., Henderson, L. ., Ethington, R., Walton, R., Soyer, G., Thomas, A. ., Wagner, I., & Wells, E. (2023). Empowering Students via Autoethnography Assignment: Fostering Inclusive Communities for Gender and Sexuality in Social Inequality Class. Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Studies, 10(4), 43–57. https://doi.org/10.29333/ejecs/1607



Original Manuscript
Received 2023-03-15
Accepted 2023-08-17
Published 2023-09-19