skip to main content


The NSF Public Access Repository (NSF-PAR) system and access will be unavailable from 11:00 PM ET on Thursday, May 23 until 2:00 AM ET on Friday, May 24 due to maintenance. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Title: Work in Progress: Self-Advocacy as a Framework for Supporting Academic Success of Minoritized Graduate Students
This work in progress paper outlines the initial evaluation results for a professional development program that is focused on strengthening self-advocacy among historically minoritized graduate students in science, engineering, technology and math (STEM). The program’s framework for self-advocacy is adapted from existing frameworks developed by the American Counseling Association and the Learning Disabilities communities to educate students on skills that support academic success. The American Counseling Association (ACA) published the Advocacy Competencies between the three areas of client/student, school/community, and public arena advocacy as part of their guidelines for effective counseling of minoritized students (Lewis, Arnold et al. 2002, Toporek and Daniels 2018) and is based on a social justice framework (Ratts and Hutchins 2009). The three skills with self-advocacy are: empowerment or a sense of agency (having control over decisions and life events), strong self-awareness (knowing what is right for oneself and setting goals based on this criteria), and social justice (knowing how to identify and challenge negative social climates and systems of oppression) (Test, Fowler et al. 2010). Within the different forms of practicing and teaching advocacy, working with students by teaching them the skills within a counselor and student or mentor and student group structure was found to help minoritized students reach academic success (Dowden 2009, Ratts and Hutchins 2009, Roberts, Ju et al. 2016).  more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
Date Published:
Journal Name:
ASEE 2022 Annual Conference
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Many historically minoritized graduate students, here defined as Women, Latinx and Black/African American students, in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) experience unwelcome or even hostile ecosystems or environments. Many of the social expectations are that historically minoritized graduate students in STEM should assimilate or acclimate to the cultural, where assimilation/acclimation are defined as cultural conformation vs. social acceptance of a student authentic self/identity. They may also experience forms of continuous microaggressions and isolation. The effects of chronic external stressors, such as experiencing discrimination and social isolation, on increased mental health disorders and decreased physiological health is well known [1-3]. Yet, evidence-based practices of support systems specifically for graduate students from historically marginalized communities to reduce the effects of climates of intimidation are not common. Indeed, researchers have found that such students “would benefit if colleges and universities attempted to deconstruct climates of intimidation [4]” and it has also been shown that teaching underrepresented minority students empowerment skills can improve academic success [5]. Self-advocacy originates from the American Counseling Association (ACA) and the Learning Disabilities (LD) communities for effective counseling that promotes academic success and is based on a social justice framework [6]. The underlying principle of self-advocacy is that supporting skills and knowledge development in the three areas of self-advocacy leads to a student’s long term participation and ultimately academic success in areas such as post-secondary education and STEM. The pillars of the self-advocacy program are centered on (i) Empowerment, (ii) Promoting self-awareness and (iii) Social Justice and programming in the GRaduate Education for Academically Talented Students (GREATS) is aligned and repeated along these three pillars. The current professional development program is in its third year of implementation and to date twenty-seven students have participated in the program. This work in progress paper outlines the evaluation of a self-advocacy program for historically marginalized graduate students in STEM at the University of Illinois Chicago is a minority serving institution as both an Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) and an Asian American Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institution (AANAPISI). [1] S. Stansfeld and B. Candy, "Psychosocial work environment and mental health--a meta-analytic review," ed, 2006. [2] E. M. Smith, "Ethnic minorities: Life stress, social support, and mental health issues," The Counseling Psychologist, vol. 13, no. 4, pp. 537-579, 1985. [3] D. M. Frost, K. Lehavot, and I. H. Meyer, "Minority stress and physical health among sexual minority individuals," Journal of behavioral medicine, vol. 38, no. 1, pp. 1-8, 2015. [4] R. T. Palmer, D. C. Maramba, and T. E. Dancy, "A Qualitative Investigation of Factors Promoting the Retention and Persistence of Students of Color in STEM," The Journal of Negro Education, vol. 80, no. 4, pp. 491-504, 2011. [Online]. Available: [5] A. R. Dowden, "Implementing Self-Advocacy Training Within a Brief Psychoeducational Group to Improve the Academic Motivation of Black Adolescents," The Journal for Specialists in Group Work, vol. 34, no. 2, pp. 118-136, 2009/04/28 2009, doi: 10.1080/01933920902791937. 
    more » « less
  2. null (Ed.)
    As our nation’s need for engineering professionals grows, a sharp rise in P-12 engineering education programs and related research has taken place (Brophy, Klein, Portsmore, & Rogers, 2008; Purzer, Strobel, & Cardella, 2014). The associated research has focused primarily on students’ perceptions and motivations, teachers’ beliefs and knowledge, and curricula and program success. The existing research has expanded our understanding of new K-12 engineering curriculum development and teacher professional development efforts, but empirical data remain scarce on how racial and ethnic diversity of student population influences teaching methods, course content, and overall teachers’ experiences. In particular, Hynes et al. (2017) note in their systematic review of P-12 research that little attention has been paid to teachers’ experiences with respect to racially and ethnically diverse engineering classrooms. The growing attention and resources being committed to diversity and inclusion issues (Lichtenstein, Chen, Smith, & Maldonado, 2014; McKenna, Dalal, Anderson, & Ta, 2018; NRC, 2009) underscore the importance of understanding teachers’ experiences with complementary research-based recommendations for how to implement engineering curricula in racially diverse schools to engage all students. Our work examines the experiences of three high school teachers as they teach an introductory engineering course in geographically and distinctly different racially diverse schools across the nation. The study is situated in the context of a new high school level engineering education initiative called Engineering for Us All (E4USA). The National Science Foundation (NSF) funded initiative was launched in 2018 as a partnership among five universities across the nation to ‘demystify’ engineering for high school students and teachers. The program aims to create an all-inclusive high school level engineering course(s), a professional development platform, and a learning community to support student pathways to higher education institutions. An introductory engineering course was developed and professional development was provided to nine high school teachers to instruct and assess engineering learning during the first year of the project. This study investigates participating teachers’ implementation of the course in high schools across the nation to understand the extent to which their experiences vary as a function of student demographic (race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status) and resource level of the school itself. Analysis of these experiences was undertaken using a collective case-study approach (Creswell, 2013) involving in-depth analysis of a limited number of cases “to focus on fewer "subjects," but more "variables" within each subject” (Campbell & Ahrens, 1998, p. 541). This study will document distinct experiences of high school teachers as they teach the E4USA curriculum. Participants were purposively sampled for the cases in order to gather an information-rich data set (Creswell, 2013). The study focuses on three of the nine teachers participating in the first cohort to implement the E4USA curriculum. Teachers were purposefully selected because of the demographic makeup of their students. The participating teachers teach in Arizona, Maryland and Tennessee with predominantly Hispanic, African-American, and Caucasian student bodies, respectively. To better understand similarities and differences among teaching experiences of these teachers, a rich data set is collected consisting of: 1) semi-structured interviews with teachers at multiple stages during the academic year, 2) reflective journal entries shared by the teachers, and 3) multiple observations of classrooms. The interview data will be analyzed with an inductive approach outlined by Miles, Huberman, and Saldaña (2014). All teachers’ interview transcripts will be coded together to identify common themes across participants. Participants’ reflections will be analyzed similarly, seeking to characterize their experiences. Observation notes will be used to triangulate the findings. Descriptions for each case will be written emphasizing the aspects that relate to the identified themes. Finally, we will look for commonalities and differences across cases. The results section will describe the cases at the individual participant level followed by a cross-case analysis. This study takes into consideration how high school teachers’ experiences could be an important tool to gain insight into engineering education problems at the P-12 level. Each case will provide insights into how student body diversity impacts teachers’ pedagogy and experiences. The cases illustrate “multiple truths” (Arghode, 2012) with regard to high school level engineering teaching and embody diversity from the perspective of high school teachers. We will highlight themes across cases in the context of frameworks that represent teacher experience conceptualizing race, ethnicity, and diversity of students. We will also present salient features from each case that connect to potential recommendations for advancing P-12 engineering education efforts. These findings will impact how diversity support is practiced at the high school level and will demonstrate specific novel curricular and pedagogical approaches in engineering education to advance P-12 mentoring efforts. 
    more » « less
  3. There are significant disparities between the conferring of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) bachelor’s degrees to minoritized groups and the number of STEM faculty that represent minoritized groups at four-year predominantly White institutions (PWIs). Studies show that as of 2019, African American faculty at PWIs have increased by only 2.3% in the last 20 years. This study explores the ways in which this imbalance affects minoritized students in engineering majors. Our research objective is to describe the ways in which African American students navigate their way to success in an engineering program at a PWI where the minoritized faculty representation is less than 10%. In this study, we define success as completion of an undergraduate degree and matriculation into a Ph.D. program. Research shows that African American students struggle with feeling like the “outsider within” in graduate programs and that the engineering culture can permeate from undergraduate to graduate programs. We address our research objective by conducting interviews using navigational capital as our theoretical framework, which can be defined as resilience, academic invulnerability, and skills. These three concepts come together to denote the journey of an individual as they achieve success in an environment not created with them in mind. Navigational capital has been applied in education contexts to study minoritized groups, and specifically in engineering education to study the persistence of students of color. Research on navigational capital often focuses on how participants acquire resources from others. There is a limited focus on the experience of the student as the individual agent exercising their own navigational capital. Drawing from and adapting the framework of navigational capital, this study provides rich descriptions of the lived experiences of African American students in an engineering program at a PWI as they navigated their way to academic success in a system that was not designed with them in mind. This pilot study took place at a research-intensive, land grant PWI in the southeastern United States. We recruited two students who identify as African American and are in the first year of their Ph.D. program in an engineering major. Our interview protocol was adapted from a related study about student motivation, identity, and sense of belonging in engineering. After transcribing interviews with these participants, we began our qualitative analysis with a priori coding, drawing from the framework of navigational capital, to identify the experiences, connections, involvement, and resources the participants tapped into as they maneuvered their way to success in an undergraduate engineering program at a PWI. To identify other aspects of the participants’ experiences that were not reflected in that framework, we also used open coding. The results showed that the participants tapped into their navigational capital when they used experiences, connections, involvement, and resources to be resilient, academically invulnerable, and skillful. They learned from experiences (theirs or others’), capitalized on their connections, positioned themselves through involvement, and used their resources to achieve success in their engineering program. The participants identified their experiences, connections, and involvement. For example, one participant who came from a blended family (African American and White) drew from the experiences she had with her blended family. Her experiences helped her to understand the cultures of Black and White people. She was able to turn that into a skill to connect with others at her PWI. The point at which she took her familial experiences to use as a skill to maneuver her way to success at a PWI was an example of her navigational capital. Another participant capitalized on his connections to develop academic invulnerability. He was able to build his connections by making meaningful relationships with his classmates. He knew the importance of having reliable people to be there for him when he encountered a topic he did not understand. He cultivated an environment through relationships with classmates that set him up to achieve academic invulnerability in his classes. The participants spoke least about how they used their resources. The few mentions of resources were not distinct enough to make any substantial connection to the factors that denote navigational capital. The participants spoke explicitly about the PWI culture in their engineering department. From open coding, we identified the theme that participants did not expect to have role models in their major that looked like them and went into their undergraduate experience with the understanding that they will be the distinct minority in their classes. They did not make notable mention of how a lack of minority faculty affected their success. Upon acceptance, they took on the challenge of being a racial minority in exchange for a well-recognized degree they felt would have more value compared to engineering programs at other universities. They identified ways they maneuvered around their expectation that they would not have representative role models through their use of navigational capital. Integrating knowledge from the framework of navigational capital and its existing applications in engineering and education allows us the opportunity to learn from African American students that have succeeded in engineering programs with low minority faculty representation. The future directions of this work are to outline strategies that could enhance the path of minoritized engineering students towards success and to lay a foundation for understanding the use of navigational capital by minoritized students in engineering at PWIs. Students at PWIs can benefit from understanding their own navigational capital to help them identify ways to successfully navigate educational institutions. Students’ awareness of their capacity to maintain high levels of achievement, their connections to networks that facilitate navigation, and their ability to draw from experiences to enhance resilience provide them with the agency to unleash the invisible factors of their potential to be innovators in their collegiate and work environments. 
    more » « less
  4. High levels of stress and anxiety are common amongst college students, particularly engineering students. Students report lack of sleep, grades, competition, change in lifestyle, and other significant stressors throughout their undergraduate education (1, 2). Stress and anxiety have been shown to negatively impact student experience (3-6), academic performance (6-8), and retention (9). Previous studies have focused on identifying factors that cause individual students stress while completing undergraduate engineering degree programs (1). However, it not well-understood how a culture of stress is perceived and is propagated in engineering programs or how this culture impacts student levels of identification with engineering. Further, the impact of student stress has not been directly considered in engineering regarding recruitment, retention, and success. Therefore, our guiding research question is: Does the engineering culture create stress for students that hinder their engineering identity development? To answer our research question, we designed a sequential mixed methods study with equal priority of quantitative survey data and qualitative individual interviews. Our study participants are undergraduate engineering students across all levels and majors at a large, public university. Our sample goal is 2000 engineering student respondents. We combined three published surveys to build our quantitative data collection instrument, including the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS), Identification with engineering subscale, and Engineering Department Inclusion Level subscale. The objective of the quantitative instrument is to illuminate individual perceptions of the existence of an engineering stress culture (ESC) and create an efficient tool to measure the impact ESC on engineering identity development. Specifically, we seek to understand the relationships among the following constructs; 1) identification with engineering, 2) stress and anxiety, and 3) feelings of inclusion within their department. The focus of this paper presents the results of the pilot of the proposed instrument with 20 participants and a detailed data collection and analysis process. In an effort to validate our instrument, we conducted a pilot study to refine our data collection process and the results will guide the data collection for the larger study. In addition to identifying relationships among construct, the survey data will be further analyzed to specify which demographics are mediating or moderating factors of these relationships. For example, does a student’s 1st generation status influence their perception of stress or engineering identity development? Our analysis may identify discipline-specific stressors and characterize culture components that promote student anxiety and stress. Our objective is to validate our survey instrument and use it to inform the protocol for the follow-up interviews to gain a deeper understanding of the responses to the survey instrument. Understanding what students view as stressful and how students identify stress as an element of program culture will support the development of interventions to mitigate student stress. References 1. Schneider L (2007) Perceived stress among engineering students. A Paper Presented at St. Lawrence Section Conference. Toronto, Canada. Retrieved from: www. asee. morrisville. edu. 2. Ross SE, Niebling BC, & Heckert TM (1999) Sources of stress among college students. Social psychology 61(5):841-846. 3. Goldman CS & Wong EH (1997) Stress and the college student. Education 117(4):604-611. 4. Hudd SS, et al. (2000) Stress at college: Effects on health habits, health status and self-esteem. College Student Journal 34(2):217-228. 5. Macgeorge EL, Samter W, & Gillihan SJ (2005) Academic Stress, Supportive Communication, and Health A version of this paper was presented at the 2005 International Communication Association convention in New York City. Communication Education 54(4):365-372. 6. Burt KB & Paysnick AA (2014) Identity, stress, and behavioral and emotional problems in undergraduates: Evidence for interaction effects. Journal of college student development 55(4):368-384. 7. Felsten G & Wilcox K (1992) Influences of stress and situation-specific mastery beliefs and satisfaction with social support on well-being and academic performance. Psychological Reports 70(1):291-303. 8. Pritchard ME & Wilson GS (2003) Using emotional and social factors to predict student success. Journal of college student development 44(1):18-28. 9. Zhang Z & RiCharde RS (1998) Prediction and Analysis of Freshman Retention. AIR 1998 Annual Forum Paper. 
    more » « less
  5. There have been many initiatives to improve the experiences of marginalized engineering students in order to increase their desire to pursue the field of engineering. However, despite these efforts, workforce numbers indicate lingering disparities. Representation in the science and engineering workforce is low with women comprising only 16% of those in science and engineering occupations in 2019, and underrepresented minorities (e.g., Black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaskan Native) collectively representing only approximately 20% (National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics [NCSES], 2022). Additionally, engineering has historically held cultural values that can exclude marginalized populations. Cech (2013) argues that engineering has supported a meritocratic ideology in which intelligence is something that you are born with rather than something you can gain. Engineering, she argues, is riddled with meritocratic regimens that include such common practices as grading on a curve and “weeding” out students in courses.Farrell et al. (2021) discuss how engineering culture is characterized by elitism through practices of epistemological dominance (devaluing other ways of knowing), majorism (placing higher value on STEM over the liberal arts), and technical social dualism (the belief that issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion should not be part of engineering). These ideologies can substantially affect the persistence of both women and people of color–populations historically excluded in engineering, because their concerns and/or cultural backgrounds are not validated by instructors or other peers which reproduces inequality. Improving student-faculty interactions through engineering professional development is one way to counteract these harmful cultural ideologies to positively impact and increase the participation of marginalized engineering students. STEM reform initiatives focused on faculty professional development, such as the NSF INCLUDES Aspire Alliance (Aspire), seek to prepare and educate faculty to integrate inclusive practices across their various campus roles and responsibilities as they relate to teaching, advising, research mentoring, collegiality, and leadership. The Aspire Summer Institute (ASI) has been one of Aspire’s most successful programs. The ASI is an intensive, week-long professional development event focused on educating institutional teams on the Inclusive Professional Framework (IPF) and how to integrate its components, individually and as teams, to improve STEM faculty inclusive behaviors. The IPF includes the domains of identity, intercultural awareness, and relational skill-building (Gillian-Daniel et al., 2021). Identity involves understanding not only your personal cultural identity but that of students and the impact of identity in learning spaces. Intercultural awareness involves instructors being able to navigate cultural interactions in a positive way as they consider the diverse backgrounds of students, while recognizing their own privileges and biases. Relational involves creating trusting relationships and a positive communication flow between instructors and students. The ASI and IPF can be used to advance a more inclusive environment for marginalized students in engineering. In this paper, we discuss the success of the ASI and how the institute and the IPF could be adapted specifically to support engineering faculty in their teaching, mentoring, and advising. 
    more » « less