Honors student’s thesis wins honorable mention

D49B5112University of Utah honors student Tara Streng is aiding the national movement against sexual violence on college campuses and collecting accolades for her work along the way. Her honors thesis, which examines sexual assault policies at 10 universities across the nation, has been published in the Journal of Education and Practice, won an honorable mention at Harvard University’s National Collegiate Research Conference and will be presented at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research in Washington this April.

Streng, a senior double majoring in sociology and international studies with an emphasis on Middle Eastern studies, said personal experience and hearing first-hand accounts of how sexual violence on campus affects its victims inspired her research.

“Sexual violence is such an important issue that needs to be promptly addressed because it has so many long-lasting physical and emotional effects on its victims such as higher rates of depression and dropping out of college,” said Streng.

“Research has the potential to make a difference and my faculty mentor Akiko Kamimura paved the way for me to conduct relevant, impactful research that could help reduce sexual violence on college campuses, so I jumped at the opportunity to help find a solution.”

Streng’s research reviewed sexual misconduct and assault policies at 10 universities across the nation, including the U, and compared them to federal legislations and guidelines regarding how universities should properly handle sexual violence.

Each policy was analyzed for how sexual violence complaints are handled, how compliant they were to federal regulations and what areas for possible improvement existed.

Streng found a large range of compliance levels among the 10 universities’ policies, including three universities that didn’t even have a formal policy in place. She also found that most of the universities’ policies focus more on the threat of violence as opposed to the perpetrated violence itself and how to appropriately respond.

“Universities need more comprehensive policies that not only protect students, but ones that are also accessible, provide clear pathways for possible actions to take and offer counseling services,” said Streng.

Streng’s thesis, which concludes with five distinct recommendations on how universities could improve and implement their sexual misconduct and assault policies, has been well-received for the valuable analysis it provides. Moving forward, she will build on her thesis and release a survey to determine students’ perceptions of sexual violence on campus.

Streng credits the Honors College for much of her success and urges students to take advantage of the numerous resources that are offered through honors.

“At the beginning of my undergraduate career, I didn’t really know how to get involved. Looking back, I could have maximized my potential if I had been more proactive about seeking out opportunities,” said Streng.

When asked what advice she would give students who are interested in conducting their own research, Streng emphasized the vast resources available at the U and the Honors College that can help inspire and motivate students.

“Starting research may seem daunting, but you can do it. The opportunity to do independent research is incredible, and the final product will make all of the hard work worth it in the end,” she said.

“The thesis has been a formative piece of my college career and I’m so grateful for the faculty at the Honors College who have aided me in completing it. I’d highly recommend that other students get involved in research because the experience you gain from crafting your own project, carrying it out and making a difference in society is invaluable.”