A University of Alabama education professor continues to be recognized for his research on race and gender identities in higher education contexts.
Dr. Steve D. Mobley Jr., assistant professor of higher education at UA, is helping grow research literature on how LGBTQ students navigate racial and class differences in higher education, and in influencing higher education policy, particularly at historically black colleges and universities.
Since 2013, Mobley has published journal articles and textbook chapters on a variety of topics, from how gay and lesbian students receive health services, to explorations of white students’ experiences at HBCUs. His dissertation, which included characters and narratives from the hit show “A Different World” and explored complex divisions of social class at HBCUs, was named 2016 Dissertation of the Year by the Southern Association of College Student Affairs, the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education and the American Association of Blacks in Higher Education.
The American College Personnel Association recently honored Mobley with a pair of awards: the Tracy David Emerging Research Award, given by the ACPA’s Coalition on Men and Masculinities to a faculty member who has produced “excellent scholarship related to men and masculinities,” and the 2019 Research Recognition Award, given by the ACPA Coalition of Sexuality and Gender Identities in recognition for completed or ongoing research on LGBTQ issues.
Additionally, the 2018-2019 Queer Studies Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association honored Mobley with its Article of the Year award.
Mobley said that his most recent studies of black students that attend HBCUs were among the pieces the ACPA considered, particularly, “No pumps allowed: The ‘problem’ with gender expression and the Morehouse College ‘Appropriate Attire Policy,’” published in the Journal of Homosexuality in 2018. In that study, Mobley and a colleague performed a critical discourse analysis to determine how students were portrayed in media coverage of the all-male school’s dress code, which in 2009 banned, among other things, men wearing female clothing.
“We found that students were being relegated to the margins, not just by media outlets, but by various campus stakeholders,” Mobley said. “And we provided Morehouse potential policies to better engage gay students.”
Mobley was in graduate school when he began research on Morehouse’s dress policy, and though the paper was rejected several times by different journals, the timing of publishing in 2018 is reflective of a research focus that has grown, but not enough, Mobley said.
“There’s been work over the last five years where we’re starting to ask tougher questions, like what higher education overall is doing for diverse and under-represented students,” Mobley said. “I was in graduate school from 2009 to 2015, and in that time period, we had maybe five pieces published on LGBT HBCU students in that time, including one of mine. But from 2006 to now, there have been less than 20 book chapters or manuscripts written about the LGBTQ population within HBCUs … there’s still more work to be done.”
Mobley draws inspiration to study social issues at HBCUs from personal experiences (he earned an undergraduate degree at Howard University), what’s reported in news media and seeing his colleagues engaged. He said increasing research in that arena depends on scholars who take interest but “need to see the work can be done.”
The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.