As the title of my blog suggests, this thesis process is stressful. Maybe it would be weird if it wasn’t. It seems that most things in life that are ‘rights of passage’ are supposed to cause us sleepless nights and trepidation. That said, I have spent a lot of the summer in a state of tension over what my exact project is and what I want to get out of this final piece of my graduate work.
During the writing retreat over the summer, the direction that unfolded was that I would create fictional case studies to pair with an academic proposal that financial aid (FA) policy and practice in higher education needs to incorporate an equity centered trauma informed approach to better serve students. Up to that point, I was researching whether there was already something like that in place while also trying to record all the things I remembered from my time as a supported education specialist that were problematic in FA.
Out of the research I did this summer, I collected a very broad and generalized collection of resources. What I am lacking is a deeper dive into all that has been done research-wise at the intersections of equity, trauma, and financial aid in higher education. Though there is so much missing from what I need to know about this topic, what all my theory is, and who my authorities are, I do have a foundation of articles, theories, and resources that have been informing my understanding:
- Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021
- Many of the issues that FA professionals have been advocating around were addressed in the most recent appropriations act. Some of these issues include simplifying the FAFSA form, removing the requirement that men have to sign up for selective service to access federal aid, removing the requirement to report drug convictions in order to access federal aid, and opening pell grants up to incarcerated students. This one functions as a primary resource for my research.
- “Creating Cultures of Trauma-Informed Care (CCTIC): A Self-Assessment and Planning Protocol” – Roger D. Fallot, Ph.D. and Maxine Harris, Ph.D.
- This document from behavioral health organization Community Connections offers a break down of trauma informed care and a model of implementing trauma informed care on an institutional level. It serves as a model of what it can look like to implement trauma informed care on an institutional level and the importance of having buy in from all parts of an organization.
- Critical Race Theory: An Introduction – Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic
- An accessible break down of CRT by some of the original creators of the theory, this primer describes what the basic tenets of CRT, its application in law, and how it has changed over time. This resource serves as another foundational piece of theory and has shaped my thinking around structures and the way that policy can be racist in its creation and implementation. An understanding of the way that policy and structures can impact people in ways that are inequitable is vital to creating change in FA policy.
- Equity-Centered Trauma Informed Education – Alex Shevrin Venet
- Shevrin Venet’s work on trauma has been significant to helping me form an understanding of how equity and trauma informed care need to be combined. Most of my theory is drawn from the model she lays out in this book about applying equity-center trauma informed practice in secondary schooling. My intention is to take what she discusses and extend it to post-secondary schooling and to FA specifically.
- Evocative Autoethnography: Writing Lives and Telling Stories – Arthur Bochner and Carolyn Ellis
- A text from some of the lead scholars in autoethnography, this both describes and demonstrates how to use autoethnography and narrative to present research. Because this comes close to capturing the process of fictional case studies, and I am contemplating using some of my own experience to describe issues in FA policy, this resource serves as a great resource and model for my methodology.
- “Family Violence and Financial Aid: A trauma-informed policy analysis of financial aid’s responsiveness to students experiencing violence in the home” – Kyra Laughlin
- A thesis from a student who attended the University of Washington, this study addressed the issue of certain FA policies that require showing proof of hardship to access federal aid. Laughlin’s study follows the line of thought that I am pursuing in my work around directly applying trauma informed principles to FA. She uses SAMHSA’s original tenets of trauma informed care.
- “Implicit Bias Toolkit” – NASFAA
- Another tool from the NASFAA organization, this offers a model for financial aid administrators to develop more equitable practices in their implementation and judgements of financial aid. This model was one of the closest things I’ve found so far to an equity centered trauma informed approach to FA.
- NASFAA Website
- As stated in their description, this organization is the “…only national, nonprofit association with a primary focus on information dissemination, professional development, and legislative and regulatory analysis related to federal student aid programs authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965…” NASFAA has been invaluable as a resource to help me understand the issues that are important in FA policy, how to interpret the changes in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, and to get a feel for the direction policy is going in.
- Student Debt Crisis Center
- This organization is a hub for those with student debt to share their stories and to advocate for policies that meet student needs. It offers a ton of first account stories of student loan debt and is useful to draw inspiration from for my fictionalized case studies.
- “SUPPORTING STUDENTS FROM ENROLLMENT TO ALUMNI: TRAUMA INFORMED PRACTICES IN HIGHER EDUCATION” – KATHY LYNN OLESEN-TRACEY
- A dissertation from a student who attended Western Illinois University, her paper discusses the need for trauma informed care in higher education in general and the many factors that impact a student’s success. Her discussion of trauma informed care needing to be incorporated on an institutional level, history of the development of trauma informed principles, and her methodology for analyzing policy make this an important resource to refer to and draw inspiration from.
These are just a smattering of some of the most important resources I have from my research over the summer. I have all of these sources and more stored in a Google Sheets file that is completely chaotic and a disaster as far as organization goes. I’ve done some sifting, but I still need to go through and organize (or simply make another sheet that will be more organized).
As far as the outline of my work, it isn’t so much that I don’t have a vision of how to outline this work, the problem is I don’t know how to present it. What form am I putting my ideas in (fiction, personal narrative, academic analysis) and what am I trying to say? I know that the fictional case study is the form proposed, but I am trying to figure out what to add to this. Do I use my own story of how I came to a vision of trauma informed education? Do I write a policy I believe fits my vision? Do I make it all an autoethnographic narrative that mixes fact and fiction and don’t worry about a traditional ‘academic paper’ to go along with it all?
Not sure. So that it what I need to solidify ASAP so I can get to work. But for now a bare bones outline of my *thoughts* with some suggestions of form is as follows: