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Title: Explaining Choice, Persistence, and Attrition of Black Students in Electrical, Computer, and Mechanical Engineering: Year 3
Our transformative mixed-methods project, funded by the Division of Engineering Education and Centers, responds to calls for more cross-institutional qualitative and longitudinal studies of minorities in engineering education. We seek to identify the factors that promote persistence and graduation as well as attrition for Black students in Electrical Engineering (EE), Computer Engineering (CpE), and Mechanical Engineering (ME). Our work combines quantitative exploration and qualitative interviews to better understand the nuanced and complex nature of retention and attrition in these fields. We are investigating the following overarching research questions: 1. Why do Black men and women choose and persist in, or leave, EE, CpE, and ME? 2. What are the academic trajectories of Black men and women in EE, CpE, and ME? 3. In what ways do these pathways vary by gender or institution? 4. What institutional policies and practices promote greater retention of Black engineering students? In this paper, we report on the results from 79 in-depth interviews with students at Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs) and a Historically Black University (HBCU [or HBU]). We describe emergent findings during Year 3 of our project, with a focus on four papers-in-progress: • Paper # 1: Our project utilized several innovative strategies for collecting narratives from our 79 interviewees. In particular, we developed a card-sorting activity to learn more about students’ reasons for choosing their engineering major. We have explored a variety of ways to analyze the data that illustrate the value of this type of data collection strategy and which will be of value to other researchers interested in decision making where there is a potentially complex set of factors, such as those found in deciding on a major. • Paper # 2: We summarized student responses to a pre-interview climate survey about three domains – Teaching and Learning, Faculty and Peer Interactions, and Belonging and Commitment. We investigated two questions: Are there differences between persisters and switchers? And, are there differences by study major? Results indicate substantial differences between persisters and switchers and some differences between ME and ECE students. • Paper # 3: Preliminary analysis of interviews of 10 HBCU Black students and 10 PWI Black students revealed that students enact several different types of community cultural wealth, particularly family, navigational, aspirational, social and resistant capital. Early results suggest that the HBCU students enacted a different form of family capital that resided in their “HBCU family” and the opportunities that their college-based networks afforded them to succeed in the major. PWI students described various forms of navigational capital and assets that were enacted in order to succeed at their study institutions. Our paper concludes with implications for university policies and practices aimed toward underrepresented students.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
1734347
NSF-PAR ID:
10303631
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ;
Publisher / Repository:
American Society for Engineering Education
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the 2021 American Society of Engineering Education Annual Conference
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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