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Title: What You Need to Succeed: Examining Culture and Capital in Biomedical Engineering Undergraduate Education
The low numbers of women and underrepresented minorities in engineering has often been characterized as a ‘pipeline problem,’ wherein few members of these groups choose engineering majors or ‘leak out’ of the engineering education pipeline before graduating [1]. Within this view, the difficulty of diversifying the engineering workforce can be addressed by stocking the pipeline with more diverse applicants. However, the assumption that adding more underrepresented applicants will solve the complex and persistent issues of diversity and inclusion within engineering has been challenged by recent research. Studies of engineering culture highlight how the persistence of women and minorities is linked to norms and assumptions of engineering cultures (e.g., [2], [3]). For example, some engineering cultures have been characterized as masculine, leading women to feel that they must become ‘one of the guys’ to fit in and be successful (e.g., [4]). In the U.S., engineering cultures are also predominantly white, which can make people of color feel unwelcome or isolated [5]. When individuals feel unwelcome in engineering cultures, they are likely to leave. Thus, engineering culture plays an important role in shaping who participates and successfully persists in engineering education and practice. Likewise, disciplinary cultures in engineering education also carry assumptions about more » what resources students should possess and utilize throughout their professional development. For example, educational cultures may assume students possess certain forms of ‘academic capital,’ such as rigorous training in STEM subjects prior to college. They might also assume students possess ‘navigational capital,’ or the ability to locate and access resources in the university system. However, these cultural assumptions have implications for the diversity and inclusivity of educational environments, as they shape what kinds of students are likely to succeed. For instance, first generation college (FGC) students may not possess the same navigational capital as continuing generation students [5]. Under-represented minority (URM) students often receive less pre-college training in STEM than their white counterparts [6]. However, FGC and URM students possess many forms of capital that often are unrecognized by education systems, for example, linguistic capital, or the ability to speak in multiple languages and styles) [7], [8]. Educational cultures that assume everyone possesses the same kinds of capital (i.e. that of white, American, high SES, and continuing generation students) construct barriers for students from diverse backgrounds. Thus, we propose that examining culture is essential for understanding the underlying assumptions and beliefs that give rise to the challenging issues surrounding the lack of diversity and inclusion in engineering. This case study examines the culture of a biomedical engineering (BME) program at a large Midwestern university and identifies underlying assumptions regarding what sources of cultural and social capital undergraduate students need to be successful. By tracing when and how students draw upon these forms of capital during their professional development, we examine the implications for students from diverse backgrounds, particularly FGC and URM students. « less
Authors:
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Award ID(s):
1636446
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10112110
Journal Name:
ASEE annual conference & exposition proceedings
ISSN:
2153-5868
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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