A nationally recognized nonprofit begun by a group of USC School of Social Work students has found a new home within the school’s military research center.

The Military Acceptance Project, which began in 2011 as a student initiative, provided information and resources to lesbian, gay and bisexual service members before the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the law barring these individuals from openly serving in the military. MAP’s work in promoting equality and acceptance among military service members, veterans and their families, received White House recognition in 2012 as a Champion of Change.

The San Diego-based nonprofit will now be housed within USC’s Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans & Military Families (CIR) to help move the work beyond advocacy to research and future policy changes.

“With MAP moving to this new niche, it is going to give us a legacy and history of USC leading the charge on this topic. I’m really proud our work won’t be lost,” said Kristen Kavanaugh, one of the original student co-founders.

Carl Castro, assistant professor and director of CIR, said this was a natural progression for the work that started with Kavanaugh and her classmates. Castro is one of three principal investigators on a two-year Defense Department-funded research project of active-duty LGBT service members.

“We hope to build upon the initial success of MAP and look into how policies and programs can be improved now that ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ has been repealed,” Castro said. “What will lead to the successful inclusion of LGBT service members so they can lead fulfilling lives?”

Researchers from USC and University of California, Los Angeles, are exploring how LGBT individuals are integrated into the military; determine if health disparities exist between them and their heterosexual counterparts; and develop recommendations for better assimilation of LGBT service members to promote military readiness. The other investigators are Jeremy Goldbach, assistant professor at the USC School of Social Work, and Ian Holloway, assistant professor of social welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

The research project also established an expert advisory panel comprised of leaders from the military and LGBT health fields. Kavanaugh, a Marine Corps captain who served during “don’t ask don’t tell,” will also join that panel.

“I hope I can give some valuable input and advice from my personal experience that can guide this important work,” she said.

More Information

MAP LGBT study
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