As we review Travel Fund applications, we often come across applicants who are doing some very interesting research, and we are glad to share some of their stories with you! This week, we interview Madeleine Toups, who used GC Travel Funding to travel to the Clinton Global Initiative Conference in Boston to present a data-driven approach to reduce adolescent sexual violence.
GC: "Tell us about your work!"
Madeleine: "I have always been interested in how schools teach sex education, mostly because my sex education in Texas was limited. I believe that sexual assaults and violence among minors, by minors, can be decreased by teaching adolescents how to be active bystanders, thrive in healthy relationships, identify and stop violent behavior, and understand the legal and moral definitions of consent. Schools have an opportunity to teach students these topics via comprehensive sex education courses, however 26 states do not even require sex education be taught. I am exploring various ways this can be changed, including updating school policies, partnering with local nonprofits and community organizers, and updating state laws."
GC: "What is the most challenging part of your research?"
Madeleine: "The largest challenge in discussing sex education programs with schools and parents is that the subject is already quite sensitive and loaded with preconceived notions. One of these perceptions is that parents do not want their children discussing sex in school or having teachers educate on the topic – even though this isn’t true. A 2008 study found that over 89% of parents support comprehensive sex education be taught at school to their children. An additional challenge is that schools do not want to appear that they are promoting promiscuous sexual behavior by offering a detailed sex education program to students, so they opt to teach abstinence-only sex education which often misses opportunities to teach adolescents about warnings of a dangerous relationship, such as sexual coercion or emotional violence."
GC: "What was the best part of your experience at the Clinton Global Initiative Conference?"
Madeleine: "The speakers at CGIU who had committed themselves to public service were most inspiring to me and offered greater insight into the scalability of my project. For example, former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright discussed the difficulties of shaping national policy, but also spoke of the satisfaction of seeing a policy enacted."
GC: "What did you learn on your trip? What made the biggest impression on you?"
Madeleine: "I learned that I had many allies in my project through breakout meetings with other conference attendees and leaders. There was a session dedicated to preventing and responding to sexual assault on college campuses. It was here that I learned more about the work being done to educate children at a younger age on what consent means in a relationship (both legally and morally) and what more can be done, which helped me in shaping my project and commitment to action."
GC: "How did the Graduate Council Travel Fund help you most traveling to Boston?"
Madeleine: "GC Travel Fund was a huge help in traveling to CGIU by paying for my flights to and from Boston."
GC: "What advice would you give to other graduate students who may be thinking of applying to the Travel Fund?"
Madeleine: "Do it! The application is seamless and ultimately helped me afford a great experience to my graduate education."
Thanks, Madeleine! Check back later for more stories from the Travel Fund.