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  1. Black men are underrepresented in engineering in general and computer engineering (CPE) in particular. Using two unique datasets, (1) the Multiple Institution Database for Investigating Engineering Longitudinal Development (MIDFIELD) and (2) 10 interviews with Black men who persisted in or switched away from CPE at two predominantly White institutions, we contextualize the outcomes ofBlack men in CPE at predominantly White institutions and highlight these students' narratives about their educational experiences. We use Schneider's attraction, selection, and attrition framework tobetter understand how institutions shape the educational experiences of Black men in CPE. Our quantitativeresults show that Black men switch majors away from CPE at similar rates to men of otherethnicities, but they have a slightly lower rate of persistence through eight semesters. Black men wholeave CPE do so earlier than they leave other majors. In our qualitative interviews, we find that early,hands-on experiences in CPE during the first year served to select students into it. Persisters betterunderstood what the CPE major entailed than switchers when selecting the major. Attrition was associatedwith poor experiences in foundational courses, lack of caring faculty, and students' reconsiderationof their reasons for choosing the CPE major initially. Our findings have implications for electrical and computer engineering faculty and advisors regarding how they teach and interact with their students, particularly those who are historically minoritized. Should the departments make the changes we suggest, the students would be the ultimate beneficiary of an improved environment for learning. 
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  2. High aspirations for the future function as powerful motivators for Black students to pursue and persist in undergraduate engineering programs. Students gain mental strength by maintaining high hopes and beliefs for the future. These aspirations can be intrinsic, originating as internal motivators, or extrinsic, coming from various social circles, such as family and friends. Researchers can benefit from investigating the aspirations of Black students to develop more effective ways for faculty and administrators to support students’ dreams and goals. Community Cultural Wealth (CCW) offers an asset-based framework that describes the strengths and knowledge of Communities of Color in terms of familial, linguistic, aspirational, resistant, navigational, and social capital that Students of Color bring to both the classroom and life. Pairing CCW with Ecological Systems Theory (EST) helps expand the understanding of the proximal and distal access students have to their various forms of capital. The different levels of EST – the microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosystem, and chronosystem – provide a framework for analyzing how students access the CCW capitals. We have combined these two frameworks to create C2WEST, an asset-based contextual theory that offers multiple lenses for viewing how and where in the EST framework individuals access their various types of capital. Using the C2WEST framework, we highlight the different types of aspirational capital of Black students that originate in their microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosystem, and chronosystem. Aspirational capital is the ability for students to maintain high expectations despite obstacles. We used two case study illustrative examples obtained through interviews with Black students in undergraduate engineering to examine the development and enactment of aspirational capital in the different layers of C2WEST. Researchers thematically coded the interviews to familiarize themselves with the data and then chose quotes from the students that exemplified aspirational capital in the various levels. The C2WEST framework will allow researchers to examine the aspirational capital of Black engineering students and gain a better understanding of the goals of Black engineering students. This framework could allow administrators and engineering educators develop better methods of supporting the academic and personal goals of Black students. By understanding the aspirational capital of students at the different levels, engineering educators will be able to provide students with individually tailored support. Through C2WEST, Black students could also further realize and conceptualize the access they have to their own aspirations regarding future career and life goals. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 26, 2024
  3. High aspirations for the future function as powerful motivators for Black students to pursue and persist in undergraduate engineering programs. Students gain mental strength by maintaining high hopes and beliefs for the future. These aspirations can be intrinsic, originating as internal motivators, or extrinsic, coming from various social circles, such as family and friends. Researchers can benefit from investigating the aspirations of Black students to develop more effective ways for faculty and administrators to support students’ dreams and goals. Community Cultural Wealth (CCW) offers an asset-based framework that describes the strengths and knowledge of Communities of Color in terms of familial, linguistic, aspirational, resistant, navigational, and social capital that Students of Color bring to both the classroom and life. Pairing CCW with Ecological Systems Theory (EST) helps expand the understanding of the proximal and distal access students have to their various forms of capital. The different levels of EST – the microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosystem, and chronosystem – provide a framework for analyzing how students access the CCW capitals. We have combined these two frameworks to create C2WEST, an asset-based contextual theory that offers multiple lenses for viewing how and where in the EST framework individuals access their various types of capital. Using the C2WEST framework, we highlight the different types of aspirational capital of Black students that originate in their microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosystem, and chronosystem. Aspirational capital is the ability for students to maintain high expectations despite obstacles. We used two case study illustrative examples obtained through interviews with Black students in undergraduate engineering to examine the development and enactment of aspirational capital in the different layers of C2WEST. Researchers thematically coded the interviews to familiarize themselves with the data and then chose quotes from the students that exemplified aspirational capital in the various levels. The C2WEST framework will allow researchers to examine the aspirational capital of Black engineering students and gain a better understanding of the goals of Black engineering students.This framework could allow administrators and engineering educators develop better methods of supporting the academic and personal goals of Black students. By understanding the aspirational capital of students at the different levels, engineering educators will be able to provide students with individually tailored support. Through C2WEST, Black students could also further realize and conceptualize the access they have to their own aspirations regarding future career and life goals. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 25, 2024
  4. The number of students with multicultural experiences are growing in the United States. We define multicultural experiences as the multiple cultures that students experience in their early life and through family, which differs from the culture at their higher education institution. Many students immigrate to the US with their families after spending formative years in other countries, which gives them unique perspectives on multiple cultures. Multicultural engineering students have a different understanding of engineering from those without such experiences. These experiences both provide these students with certain advantages in engineering and present challenges in their educational pursuits. Examining both advantages and challenges provides an opportunity to understand these students’ strengths and adaptation strategies. Engineering is a field that requires new thoughts, insights, and opinions to advance. Their meaningful life experiences (particularly their multicultural experiences) can bring new light to issues in engineering as well. The study utilizes data from a larger mixed-methods study of Black students in engineering for in-depth interview transcripts, survey data, and an identity circle artifact. Two cases were purposefully selected for the current study – both participants were raised by African parents and had an additional international experience in a predominantly White country before studying engineering in the US. Both participants used this third point of reference to reflect on and give a rich description of their experience in the US. Through qualitative analysis of these cases, we will address the question: In what ways do Black students who are first- or second-generation immigrants from Africa and have studied abroad leverage community cultural wealth in engineering in the US? We use Yosso’s Community Cultural Wealth (CCW) framework to highlight the strengths these students leverage in engineering. CCW is an asset-based framework developed to highlight the strengths of the students from Communities of Color. There are six assets used as a guiding lens to inform research in these communities: familial, social, aspirational, navigational, resistance, and linguistic capital that students bring from their familial and community background. This framework names and categorizes the numerous skills Students of Color have obtained through lived experiences and how the students are able to be successful in academia. Furthermore, students have the ability to utilize these capitals to their advantage in order to be successful beyond academia. Exploring the CCW of Black immigrant students from African countries will give researchers a better understanding of the assets and strengths these students possess as well as the challenges they face. Through an examination of the CCW and various forms of capital for two Black immigrant students, we will emphasize the strengths of students with multicultural experiences in the hopes that they will be further valued and supported by university administrators. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 26, 2024
  5. The number of students with multicultural experiences are growing in the United States. We define multicultural experiences as the multiple cultures that students experience in their early life and through family, which differs from the culture at their higher education institution. Many students immigrate to the US with their families after spending formative years in other countries, which gives them unique perspectives on multiple cultures. Multicultural engineering students have a different understanding of engineering from those without such experiences. These experiences both provide these students with certain advantages in engineering and present challenges in their educational pursuits. Examining both advantages and challenges provides an opportunity to understand these students’ strengths and adaptation strategies. Engineering is a field that requires new thoughts, insights, and opinions to advance. Their meaningful life experiences (particularly their multicultural experiences) can bring new light to issues in engineering as well. The study utilizes data from a larger mixed-methods study of Black students in engineering for in-depth interview transcripts, survey data, and an identity circle artifact. Two cases were purposefully selected for the current study – both participants were raised by African parents and had an additional international experience in a predominantly White country before studying engineering in the US. Both participants used this third point of reference to reflect on and give a rich description of their experience in the US. Through qualitative analysis of these cases, we will address the question: In what ways do Black students who are first- or second-generation immigrants from Africa and have studied abroad leverage community cultural wealth in engineering in the US? We use Yosso’s Community Cultural Wealth (CCW) framework to highlight the strengths these students leverage in engineering. CCW is an asset-based framework developed to highlight the strengths of the students from Communities of Color. There are six assets used as a guiding lens to inform research in these communities: familial, social, aspirational, navigational, resistance, and linguistic capital that students bring from their familial and community background. This framework names and categorizes the numerous skills Students of Color have obtained through lived experiences and how the students are able to be successful in academia. Furthermore, students have the ability to utilize these capitals to their advantage in order to be successful beyond academia. Exploring the CCW of Black immigrant students from African countries will give researchers a better understanding of the assets and strengths these students possess as well as the challenges they face. Through an examination of the CCW and various forms of capital for two Black immigrant students, we will emphasize the strengths of students with multicultural experiences in the hopes that they will be further valued and supported by university administrators. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 26, 2024
  6. Asset-based theories explain how people can apply their talents and skills to thrive in diverse environments. When applied to engineering education, these theories can highlight the unique strengths of students of color that help them succeed in college and beyond. An asset-based framework allows both students and instructors to see the potential in students in ways that were previously overlooked or unexplored. This paper combines one asset-based framework and a powerful contextual theory to highlight the assets of Black students in engineering. First, Yosso’s Community Cultural Wealth (CCW) framework examines familial, linguistic, aspirational, resistant, navigational, and social capital. Second, Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory (EST) describes the relationships that surround an individual as a set of systems that influence the individual in different ways. We combine the CCW and EST frameworks, to develop the C2WEST framework. This new framework can be used explore the experiences and strengths of Black students in engineering and the contexts that best describe those strengths. The various levels of influence included in EST will be used as a tool for describing the proximity of the assets to the individual as described by CCW. We present an illustrative example to demonstrate the power of combining these two frameworks. We posit that synthesizing these frameworks provides researchers with unique opportunities to analyze interviews based on the type of capital and the impact the particular capital could have on the individual’s engineering journey. In addition to creating a unique way to analyze the experiences of Black engineering students, we anticipate the merged frameworks could be used to help students of Color realize the strengths they bring to the classroom. By identifying their assets, students could feel more empowered in engineering by recognizing the unique strengths they possess. We hope the tool will be used to help students realize their own strengths and for faculty and administrators to further realize how to support students. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 26, 2024
  7. Asset-based theories explain how people can apply their talents and skills to thrive in diverse environments. When applied to engineering education, these theories can highlight the unique strengths of students of color that help them succeed in college and beyond. An asset-based framework allows both students and instructors to see the potential in students in ways that were previously overlooked or unexplored. This paper combines one asset-based framework and a powerful contextual theory to highlight the assets of Black students in engineering. First, Yosso’s Community Cultural Wealth (CCW) framework examines familial, linguistic, aspirational, resistant, navigational, and social capital. Second, Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory (EST) describes the relationships that surround an individual as a set of systems that influence the individual in different ways. We combine the CCW and EST frameworks, to develop the C2WEST framework. This new framework can be used explore the experiences and strengths of Black students in engineering and the contexts that best describe those strengths. The various levels of influence included in EST will be used as a tool for describing the proximity of the assets to the individual as described by CCW. We present an illustrative example to demonstrate the power of combining these two frameworks. We posit that synthesizing these frameworks provides researchers with unique opportunities to analyze interviews based on the type of capital and the impact the particular capital could have on the individual’s engineering journey. In addition to creating a unique way to analyze the experiences of Black engineering students, we anticipate the merged frameworks could be used to help students of Color realize the strengths they bring to the classroom. By identifying their assets, students could feel more empowered in engineering by recognizing the unique strengths they possess. We hope the tool will be used to help students realize their own strengths and for faculty and administrators to further realize how to support students. 
    more » « less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 26, 2024
  8. 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. Our project builds on prior work that demonstrated the impacts of gender and race on academic trajectories in Electrical, Computer, and Mechanical Engineering (EE, CpE, and ME, respectively) to answer the following 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 Year 4 of our project, the research team has engaged in deeper analysis of our quantitative data from the Multi-Institution Database for Investigating Engineering Longitudinal Development (MIDFIELD) database and our qualitative data from 79 in-depth interviews of students in the three study majors at our four study institutions. Expanding on findings presented in prior years, in this paper, we describe emergent results from three papers from Year 4 of our project: • Paper # 1: “Who Tells Your Story? Qualitative Methods for Establishing Connections and Eliciting Narratives” was published in the International Journal of Qualitative Methodology in 2021. It includes a description of the development of the card-sorting activity that students completed to describe their reasons for choosing to major in engineering and an exploration of different ways to analyze the data. Analysis of how frequently the factors influencing the major choice were chosen by interviewees has allowed us to identify those factors that carry the greatest importance for students and how they vary for persisters and switchers. • Paper # 2: “GPA Trends of Black Mechanical Engineering Students”: Our early qualitative work has led to questions about students who switch majors and those who leave the university. We are using the MIDFIELD database to better understand characteristics of students who switch majors and who leave the university. We will use functional cluster analysis to group the GPA trends to find clearly defined groups of students' GPA. Preliminary findings suggest that the students who switch majors have different GPA trends than the students who leave their institutions. This holds true for whether the student chooses to switch their major and stay within engineering and students who choose to leave engineering. • Paper # 3: “Pride and Prestige: Factors Influencing How and Why Black Students Choose to Attend a Predominantly White Institution or a Historically Black University”: In this paper, we explore the reasons that students in our study majors decided to attend either a HBCU or a PWI. Our early analysis revealed that students had diverse reasons for college choice, including affordability, location, familiarity with the institution, family encouragement and connections, and prestige of the university. Our paper will also describe the differences between students who attended a HBCU or PWI in their rationale for deciding to attend a particular university. 
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  9. In recent years, research has associated grade point average (GPA) with a variety of student outcomes during their undergraduate careers. The studies link higher GPAs to students being more likely to graduate in their major, while lower GPAs have been linked to students switching majors or leaving the institution. Further research, which focuses on how Black female and male students remain successful in different engineering degrees, is necessary to identify the underlying elements contributing to their entrance into and exit from engineering disciplines. This quantitative examination of trends among the GPAs of Black women and men is part of a larger NSF-funded mixed-methods study that includes in-depth student interviews of Black students who persisted in and switched from ME. In this quantitative paper, we examine the GPA patterns of Black students in Mechanical Engineering (ME). Students who have ever enrolled in ME have four potential, mutually exclusive, outcomes: 1) they can persist for 12 semesters without graduating; 2) they can graduate in ME within 12 semesters; 3) they can switch to another major; or 4) they can leave school. In this research, we identify the most common GPA patterns associated with graduated ME students. We hypothesize a relationship between distinct GPA patterns and whether a student persists in ME, graduates in ME, switches away from ME, or leaves the institution altogether. This quantitative investigation uses the Multiple-Institution Database for Investigating Engineering Longitudinal Development (MIDFIELD) to collect the cumulative GPA of ME students at each term. We use a functional cluster analysis approach to group similar patterns. First, a function is fit to each student record. Then a cluster analysis is conducted on the function parameters to identify natural groupings in the data. Once students are grouped according to their GPA profile, we examine the other characteristics and outcomes of the group. We present a visual quantitative analysis of the patterns in the GPAs of Black women and men who enroll in ME. Clustering analysis suggests that first-time-in-college (FTIC) Black female students in ME who graduated have a higher proportion of students in the higher GPA clusters than the proportion of FTIC Black male students who graduated in ME. A higher proportion of the male student population is clustered in the lower GPA cluster groups as compared to women in the lower GPA cluster groups. A higher proportion of students who graduated are in the higher GPA clusters than the proportion of graduated students in the lower GPA clusters. 
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  10. 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. 
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