Student of the Year

Melissa Rios

Student of the Year – Turner Stulting

“I present at conferences all the time. In the past year, I’ve probably presented at more than a dozen, either on youth-led activism, trans youth policy briefings, safe schools advocacy, or transfeminism,” Turner Stulting ’16 said.

 

Ze looks up at the ceiling, thinking about zir first year at the University. Stulting grew up in Greenville, S.C. and spent most of zir time horseback riding competitively.

 

“I spent pre-orientation with the Buckwild program and came in as an Electrical Engineering major. I was also on the Varsity Rowing team. Those two things dominated my first year. During my sophomore year, I quit the rowing team, attended the Common Ground retreat, came back and switched out of the College of Engineering. I went to one conference and my life was forever changed because of it. I ended up getting thrown into planning another conference and that threw me into the world of advocacy. I’ve loved it ever since,” Stulting said. 

 

Stulting, like many other Bucknellians, is highly involved with several organizations and programs on campus. Ze is the outgoing president and the incoming Outreach Coordinator of the Gender & Sexuality Alliance. This past fall, ze was a facilitator and is currently one of two assistant directors for the Common Ground retreat. As well, Stulting is part of the Technical Staff for Uptown and a Senior Technical Assistant for the Weis Center for Performing Arts.

 

However, Stulting’s involvement doesn’t just fall within the University’s bubble; ze was the 2014 Pennsylvania Youth Action Conference Co-Chair, the 2014 Convener for the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition (PSEC), and served as PSEC’s Summer Policy Fellow. Ze has worked on K-12 anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies. Stulting has also worked with college students on trans-inclusive policies for their respective campuses, which includes trans-affirming IDs, gender neutral bathrooms, roster names, safe housing, and more.

 

“I do want a Ph.D. in Gender Studies and to become a professor because I like educating others on these issues. Academia is not only a great way to educate, but to also empower, to create change in the world. I’ll also continue doing policy work because it’s an important part of any social justice movement. It’s vital to have social change and people shifting mentalities in positive ways. But that change can’t last without legislation and policy to back it up. The social and policy spheres have to work together,” Stulting said.

 

Stulting explained that ze went through a lot of bullying in high school and now experiences the same for zir sexual orientation and gender identity. However, Stulting believes that given the privileges ze holds, ze is in the position to advocate for change for people who can’t necessarily advocate for themselves.

“I know what it’s like to be in their positions,” Stulting said.

 

Stulting was accepted to both of zir top schools.

“[Bucknell] was, hands-down, the best engineering program and at the end of the day, I chose Bucknell because I couldn’t make a decision between the two top schools to which I was accepted,” Stulting said. 

 

Executive Director of PSEC Jason Landau Goodman taught Stulting a lot of what ze knows about political advocacy and organization around social justice movements and the world of nonprofits.

“He’s really helped me grow as a leader and an activist,” Stulting said.

 

Bill McCoy, the University’s Director of the Office of LGBT Awareness, has been an important mentor for Stulting as well.

“He’s challenged me in many ways to not only grow as a leader but to also develop personally and be more inclusive,” Stulting said.

 

Stulting also cites each professor in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies as being a huge part of zir development.

“Erica Delsandro has especially been a great mentor; she’s helped me integrate my passions in activism and academia and bridge that gap. She’s truly challenged me to think critically so that I grow as a scholar,” Stulting said.

 

Ze compares her current work to zir passion for horseback riding.

“No matter how long you ride for, there’s always more to learn and more challenges to face. If you’re not consistently trying to learn new things, then you’re not growing as a rider. It’s the same for the work that I do. It involves the willingness to always learn and challenge what you think you may know,” Stulting said. 

 

“In horseback riding, there’s a strong community of riders, and horses for that matter. You can’t win the blue ribbon on your own and you have to have a team standing behind you. It may be an individual sport, but you can’t move forward without the support of your community. There’s not necessarily an identity-based community with my work, but rather a community of people fighting for the same goals. There’s a general love for humanity and a vision for the future. But just as in horseback riding, you can’t forget the experiences of the individuals. I’d always want to win as many blue ribbons and jump as high as I could but at the end of the day, it was about myself and my friends enjoying the sport,” Stulting said.

 

Despite the experiences Stulting had in zir past, ze said “I wouldn’t want to change anything that happened. Whether good or bad, my past has been very integral to the person I am. I’m happy with me.”

 

This summer, Turner will be conducting research on the implications of socioeconomic class on transgender students, with a goal to interview 50 transgender college students. Ze will also be taking the GRE and writing zir personal statements for applications to graduate programs. Ze is currently planning zir Spring 2016 Honors Thesis, which will focus on support systems that exist for transgender sexual assault victims. Stulting is also heavily considering getting zir Ph.D. in Gender Studies, most likely at the University of Arizona.

 

“It’s so easy to get caught up in why we need to do this work. Looking at statistics of bullying, harassment, and homelessness provides a drive, a negative one. But it’s also important to look at the positive things that drive this work,” Stulting said.

Ze expressed, “The biggest thing that gives me hope is seeing young people organizing for change and recognizing that change is possible. Seeing people who are my age or younger motivated to make a difference in the world, in spite of many obstacles, is inspiring. I look at how far we’ve come, the change that has even happened only in the past year, and it gives me hope that we can continue to make necessary changes in our society.”

(Visited 1,361 times, 1 visits today)