Name: Katelyn Rose Malae
Year in program, program: 4th year sociology Ph.D. program
Awards: A. Kimball Romney Award for Outstanding Graduate Papers, Pedagogical Fellowship 2021, Competitive Edge 2017
Undergrad: City University of New York-Brooklyn College

Tell us a bit about your research and how you came to study affirmative consent.

I distinctly recall standing outside the library of Brooklyn College talking with friends about dating. During the conversation, a friend mentioned that she had sex recently with someone much sooner than desired because she did not want him to think that she wasn't into him. Her comments resonated with us all, encouraging us to share similar stories. This moment led me to begin to ask questions about the gray areas of sexual violence, unwanted sexual activity, and sexual assault. It fueled my master's paper, which examines the politics of affirmative consent policy, and my dissertation project which focuses on the factors shaping sexual communication and practices of consent between dating-app users.

My research examines how dating applications shape the ways young adults communicate sexual interest, boundaries, and consent. Prior research has generally focused on the sexual lives on college students. By including the sexual experiences of those outside of college campuses, my current research broadens our understanding of the factors shaping sexual behavior and communication.

What interests you most in this field?

The opportunity to engage in conversations across different fields and disciplines about the factors shaping sexual consent, unwanted sex, and sexual/gender-based violence.

What implications does your research have for the general community?

My research broadens our understanding of the factors shaping sexual communication on and off digital platforms. This work can be used to create assessments and suggestions for improvement of dating applications by increasing safety measures to prevent sexual violence and assault. My work can also be used to create workshops and tools for young adults to effectively and affirmatively communicate sexual interest and consent while using digital dating applications

Why did you decide to come to UCI for your graduate program?

I chose to attend UCI based on the intuitional support for first-generation and marginalized students, as well as the welcoming and supportive community among graduate students in my department.  

What do you plan to do after finishing your graduate degree?

I plan to continue researching and teaching about issues related to sexual and gender-based violence, connecting my research to the community by building protocols to prevent violations of sexual consent that consider how digital contexts shape patterns of sexual communication.  

What major milestones have highlighted your life thus far and, more specifically, your time at UCI?

As a first-generation college student, graduating from undergrad was a huge accomplishment for my older sister and me. Yet, the biggest milestone so far is moving across the country to pursue a Ph.D.

At UCI? Being welcomed in the 2021 Pedagogical Fellowship Program. Having the opportunity to hone and cultivate my skills as a teacher with an incredibly talented and innovative community has led me to become instructor, mentor, and researcher. This program has been one of my favorite parts about my time at UCI so far.

Outside of research, what else are you involved in at UCI?

I’ve been a mentor to early-stage graduate students for the past four years through the DECADE Competitive Edge Program and Sociology Graduate Student Association. I’ve also been the co-chair for Sociology Graduate Student Association, where I’ve organized and facilitated workshops and panels to demystify the graduate school and research process.   

Who has played an important role in your life thus far and why?

I’ve been fortunate to receive endless encouragement and support from the UCI sociology department, especially from professors Kristin Turney and David Meyer. I wouldn’t be working toward my Ph.D. without the faculty at CUNY-Brooklyn College, particularly professors Namita Manohar and Yung-Yi Diana Pan. They let me know that I was capable of getting into graduate school. I am grateful for their continuous support.

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