May 8, 2017 — Erich Pitcher's doctoral research — conducted in the Higher Adult and Lifelong Education program at Michigan State University — was recognized this April as the field’s most outstanding dissertation for 2017 by Division J of the American Educational Research Association. Pitcher serves as the associate director for research and communications in Oregon State University's Diversity and Cultural Engagement office.
Pitcher’s research represents the first systemic study of trans* academics, including professors, post-docs, librarians and graduate students. They studied 39 academics across the United States whose gender identity differs from societal expectations associated with their sex assigned at birth. Pitcher’s dissertation inspects the ways in which processes — both big and small — impact the trans* experience of academics, ranging in areas from health care coverage to bathroom availability.
“This is an incredibly humbling award to receive,” Pitcher said. “To be recognized for my work with transgender academics is amazing and deeply moving for me both personally and professionally. This award will allow me to further amplify the voices of participants.”
Pitcher — who uses he and they pronouns — is currently turning their dissertation into a book with the academic publisher Peter Lang. They are also working on a longitudinal study, slated for five years, which includes trans* academics from the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
“I am deeply committed to continuing this work and pushing institutions of higher education to lead with trans* people in mind,” Pitcher says. “I am especially hopeful that trans* academics will find more hospitable homes within academia — that would be the best outcome I could hope for with this work.”