Turning Research into Education

Opportunities to partner on faculty research and collaborate across disciplines put Li Lock on track to a position at a regional Planned Parenthood tasked with investigating and teaching sexual health and wellness.

Li Lock presented their findings to Widener peers and faculty.
Li Lock
Class of 2019
Center for Human Sexuality Studies
  • College of Health & Human Services
Career Plan: Research Associate and Interim Director of Education at Planned Parenthood Great Plains

As an undergraduate, Li Lock '19 knew they wanted to pursue a career in human sexuality. After earning a master’s degree in couple and family therapy, Widener’s Center for Human Sexuality Studies, one of only a few programs at an accredited university in the country, was an obvious next step. 

I knew pretty quickly that I wanted to go to the program at Widener. I’d heard it was a reputable program at an accredited university, and after learning about the range of backgrounds of the faculty and their research interests, I knew this was the place. —Li Lock '19

A native of Georgia, Li joined Widener’s nationally-recognized program first earning a master of education (MEd) and then a doctor of philosophy (PhD) in human sexuality studies. The program’s experiential learning and flexible course schedule allowed them to continue to work and advance in the field. 

As research associate and interim director of education at Planned Parenthood Great Plains, Li works across various patient populations to investigate and educate on health disparities, sexual health and wellness throughout Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma.

An Interdisciplinary Learning Approach

Li was drawn to Widener’s comprehensive approach to sexuality studies that brought in perspectives from other health service fields. 

“Because of the strong focus on human sexuality, I was confident that I could get a comprehensive background from an array of different fields while remaining centered on sexuality” said Li. 

The opportunity to collaborate with other disciplines, such as social work and clinical psychology, offered a more holistic learning environment.

“My experience in the program has shaped the way that I conceptualize sexuality as a field. It strongly influenced my education, research, and evaluation work because of the variety of perspectives that the faculty and adjuncts, all of my instructors, as well as my peers, brought to the table.”

Hands-on Research from Day One

The program offers a variety of tracks, such as clinical, educational, and public policy, designed to fit students’ professional goals.

After enrolling on the clinical track, Li transitioned to the education track providing them with the foundation to lead sexual health and wellness education efforts for Planned Parenthood Great Plains. 

“Even though I’m not serving as a facilitator or an educator directly, having that training has been absolutely instrumental in helping me build out the education department here at PPGP.”

They also became immersed in meaningful research projects by teaming up with different faculty, such as Associate Professors Justin Sitron and Brooke Wells, and through joining the Interdisciplinary Sexuality Research Collaborative (ISRC) where they continue to collaborate on projects today.

“I hope to stay involved with the ISRC and the work that they’re doing because it’s very good and novel work that rarely gets done at other places,” Li said.

Exchanging Experiences and Ideas

Widener’s program attracts students from across the nation representing varied backgrounds, work experiences, and career paths. That diversity of thought and experience creates a unique and elevated learning culture in the classroom.  

“There is as much, if not more, value in the knowledge and experience that your peers bring to the program as the faculty,” said Li.

According to Li, the lessons they learned from their classmates, as well as faculty, continue to inform their work and keep them at the forefront of their field.

“I learned so much from the other people who were also drawn to the program. It would’ve been a drastically different experience without all of those folks being part of my learning. I think that that’s a huge strength of the program – the people it brings together.”

Career Plan: Research Associate and Interim Director of Education at Planned Parenthood Great Plains

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