It was the introductory course on transgender health care that got Grace Heneghan thinking about a second graduate degree. They were already pursuing a master’s in social work, but something about that course stuck with them.
“I took it with another social work peer of mine, and we both fell in love with that class, and I was like, okay, I need to take more of these,” says Grace. “It was also just very affirming as a queer and nonbinary student, and it got me hooked into wanting to take more classes.”
Which they did. And the more classes Grace took, the more they were drawn into the field of sexual health as a career focus. “I love these classes so much it feels worth it to do the master’s and get more experience. I'm really interested in pursuing sex therapy within the therapy world, and so I applied to the Masters of Professional Studies in Sexual Health.”
“It just kind of clicked.”
Grace had majored in gender and women's studies and environmental studies as an undergraduate. They were trained in outdoor education and led several expeditions with youth for years.
They pursued a graduate degree in social work to gain more interpersonal skills and explore the field before deciding on a specific path. During the final year of their master's in social work, they learned about the newly developed sexual health master’s through the College of Continuing and Professional Studies.
“I didn't really think of it as an option until that was created, and then it kind of hit me: I'm really interested in this. I was unsure for a long time of what I wanted to do. Once that became available it just kind of clicked.”
They had life experience and a background in gender studies, but they were particularly excited about gaining formal training around trans health. “Having that academic education was a really nice addition to some of the things I already knew.”
Their second master’s experience then “really took off in a way that was super unexpected but really exciting.”
An Integrated, Interactive Class Experience
All of the courses in the sexual health program were designed to be delivered online, even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Instructors, course materials, and interactive elements were already in place before all university programming went virtual in the spring of 2020.
“It was very well designed,” Grace says. “Being in a very well facilitated online learning space was a pretty big breath of fresh air. These are designed to be accessible for folks who are working full time. It just felt really nice and flexible in a way that made it easier to be a student.”
“I love these classes so much it feels worth it to do the master’s and get more experience."
Even though the courses are asynchronous (with no set meeting time), Grace was able to meet with instructors one-on-one. “I feel like all the instructors have been so intentional about meeting with us and trying to make it as interactive (as possible). You're not just this person online; I feel like it was very integrated.”
Because the MPS in Sexual Health is offered completely online, it attracts students from across the country who are working in a wide range of fields. “It was really exciting to get to interact with gynecologists and sex educators and folks throughout the world.”
Grace is encouraging their social work peers to take sexual health courses to round out their education. ”We're being taught by really incredible therapists and professors. This is a great way to learn from psychologists and get a different perspective of therapy.”
Looking Toward the Future
Grace is currently doing a part-time internship at Minneapolis College through their social work program. While not dealing directly with sexuality issues, they are supporting college students by directing them to resources.
“I like all these different aspects of working with people and supporting them in whatever ways,” Grace says. “I have people in my life who are therapists and the more I heard about their work and what they liked about it, I was like, oh that makes sense.”
In the future, Grace would like to specialize in gender and sexuality therapy, but they are taking their time to complete the degree. “It's not a rush to get to an end point… I’m just starting to make connections and get into the field in whatever way I can.”
HSEX 6311 – Health Care for Transgender and Gender-Diverse Adults
(This course is also part of our graduate certificate in Transgender and Gender Diverse Health which can be taken as part of the MPS in Sexual Health.)
Pro Tips for Students
- Use University resources. "I'm neurodivergent and seek accommodations, and it’s super helpful to have that support in this program. It's worth it to seek that out right away to better support you in the program, especially since it's online and can sometimes be difficult."
- Connect with instructors and ask questions. "I would recommend reaching out to them because they're super supportive and flexible and are excited to just help you succeed."
- Have fun. "Especially with the (final) project when there's a lot of creativity involved. It allows you to synthesize all the information of the semester, but then be able to make it your own, which is really exciting. You can go into an area that you're interested in but maybe didn't have time to focus on."
Grace is a recipient of the Ingrid Lenz Harrison, Nolte Miller, and Mucke Roff scholarships.