Story by Andrea Day
The School of Education at Colorado State University is pleased to announce that Kari Dockendorff has joined the faculty of its Higher Education Leadership doctoral degree specialization.
Dockendorff, who uses the pronouns “they/them/their,” focuses gender and sexuality equity in higher education with a focus on trans students. (Learn more about the importance of using people’s proper pronouns.)
From student to faculty
Dockendorff earned their B.S. in human biology from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. While studying, Dockendorff was highly involved in on-campus activities and housing. Working as a resident adviser, they found their true passion in educational leadership rather than medical school.
“I realized that I didn’t want to go to medical school anymore, and that student affairs and educational leadership was a field I could get a master’s in,” said Dockendorff. “I pursued a degree at the University of Utah, and as I got into the master’s program, the more I realized I really liked the research aspect of the degree as well.”
Dockendorff earned their master’s at the University of Utah in educational leadership and policy with an emphasis in student affairs. After graduation, they accepted a job in academic advising. Originally planning to pursue a Ph.D. in order to continue working in higher education administration, they found that research was a more interesting goal.
“I left my academic advising job and started pursuing my Ph.D. full time,” Dockendorff said. “I learned that research and teaching were really exciting for me, and that it was what I wanted to do full time.”
Dockendorff earned their doctorate from the University of Utah in educational leadership and policy, with a graduate certificate in gender studies.
Impacting gender and sexuality equity
Through the course of their research, Dockendorff created a scale that measures the trans inclusivity of staff as they interact with trans students. The scale measures staff attitudes, knowledge, and behavior towards trans students. Dockendorff also developed a scale that measures levels of masculinity, femininity and androgyny, to create a better understanding of gender identity.
“A lot of people will say you can’t do quantitative methods of gender and sexuality because of how limiting it can be to measure things,” said Dockendorff. “Yet, I was always frustrated when I’d take a survey or see a data set because I wasn’t represented within it. For me, quantitative methods can definitely be used to create a better picture of who exists on campus.”
Dockendorff hopes to continue their research to ensure that college campuses are not erasing students from the conversation.
“When you think about how we measure traits of students on college campuses,” they said, “if we’re keeping it as male or female we erase a certain part of the population on campus – those who may not identify as male or female or identify as nonbinary.”
Impacting students online
Dockendorff is excited to teach and advise students within the Higher Education Leadership Ph.D. program at CSU.
“I still feel like I’m a student,” they joked, “so I’m excited to work with students. Hopefully it will make me a better adviser and teacher, since I clearly remember what it’s like to be a doctoral student.”
Focusing on quantitative studies and research, Dockendorff looks forward to breaking down the fear of numerical data and move students forward in research.
“A lot of students start out afraid of quantitative methods,” they said. “It will be fun for me to push beyond that and get people excited to put it into their research. It’s wonderful to see research ideas and dissertations develop.
Just two weeks into their first semester teaching at CSU, Dockendorff finds the online delivery of the Higher Education Leadership program offers unique opportunities to engage with students working in a variety of locations.
“I think it’s cool that my students are all across the United States and across all different kinds of institutions,” they said. “It brings a new dynamic to the classroom that I’m excited to learn.”
New to CSU
Settling into a new location themselves, Dockendorff hopes to get involved across campus with diversity offices such as the PRIDE Resource Center and the Women and Gender Advocacy Center. They also look forward to future interdisciplinary research and collaboration to advance their research in trans inclusivity.
“I hope to use my scale at CSU for trans inclusivity,” said Dockendorff. “I think there is a lot of potential, and the exciting thing is that there are a lot of people to connect with in terms of research and practice on campus.”
Dockendorff, their partner, and their newborn are already having positive experiences living in the Fort Collins area. A runner and road cyclist who also enjoys hiking, Dockendorff plans to explore all that Colorado has to offer.