June 17, 2021

Ferguson, whose research focuses on transgender college students, wants to work "on things like access to health care and housing for the LGBTQ community, and at a level that will enact more systematic change."

Lo Ferguson (Photo courtesy of Ferguson)
Lo Ferguson (Photo courtesy of Ferguson)

This fall, Lo Ferguson (M.A. 20, Women’s and Gender Studies) will start at the University of Pennsylvania’s Law School as a Toll Public Interest Scholar — an award that provides full tuition costs for all three years of the program. 

Ferguson, who uses they/them pronouns, has previously directed a youth center at New York City-based Housing Works. Their research focuses on transgender college students and they spoke this month to the Graduate Center while in the process of moving into their new Philadelphia apartment: 

The Graduate Center: What do you plan to work on at Penn?

Ferguson: I’m pursuing public interest law, which is a very wide term that can apply to a lot of different things. I’m using it as a tool to go into policy, specifically focused on LGBTQ legal remedies. That’s really important to me — thinking about systematic oppression. I want to do more to treat the cause rather than the symptom, by working on things like access to health care and housing for the LGBTQ community, and at a level that will enact more systematic change.

GC: You were admitted to multiple law schools. Why did you choose Penn?

Ferguson: A few reasons. It’s a highly ranked school. And I was fortunate that the scholarship I received at Penn was full tuition. I was very excited that I wouldn’t have to go into debt. Also, Penn’s public interest center pursues something new and innovative every year, which I wasn’t necessarily seeing at every other law school. The university really invests time and energy into their public interest center. 

GC: What is your advice to students who are looking for scholarships?

Ferguson: I’d say knowing faculty at the Graduate Center was really helpful. I knew everyone in my program, and I knew they were genuinely interested in me. Dr. Davis [Professor Dána-Ain Davis, the executive officer of the Women’s and Gender Studies M.A. program] wrote one of my letters of recommendation, which I’m sure was extremely helpful. Having people like that who were really invested in me, who would come across scholarship opportunities, who were mentors, was incredibly helpful. 

I also worked in Students Affairs for a while, and Student Affairs people know about scholarships and really want students to apply for them. And I found it was very helpful to go to the universities I was interested in and ask what scholarships they had. I would say, ‘Here are my interests, what scholarships might apply to me?’ And they would say, ‘Here’s three things that would work for you. Let me know what else you need.’

GC: How did your experience in the Women’s and Gender Studies program prepare you for this next step? 

Ferguson: My experience was wonderful! There were a lot of reasons why I wanted to go to the GC. It’s a smaller program, so I felt like I could really meet everyone. I was able to take multiple classes with professors who I really enjoyed. I got to work directly with Dr. Davis, who’s someone I so admire and look up to. I was getting a top-tier education, I was getting everything I needed and working really closely with folks, and I might not have had that experience anywhere else. If there was a particularly complicated problem to work through in class, or I was having an issue with something I was writing, I felt I could go to people I trusted and get feedback and grow. It was such a productive and welcoming environment. 

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