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African American and Hispanic STEM Students’ Engagement at Predominantly White Institutions

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Focus on African-American and Hispanic Engineering Students’ Professional and Academic Development

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.144.1 - 24.144.17



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Paper Authors


Terrell Lamont Strayhorn Ohio State University

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Dr. Terrell Strayhorn is a professor of higher education and director of the Center for Inclusion, Diversity & Academic Success (iDEAS) at Ohio State University.

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Fei Bie


Leroy L. Long III Ohio State University

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Leroy L. Long III earned his master's in mechanical engineering at Ohio State University and his bachelor's in mechanical engineering at Wright State University. He is now a doctoral candidate in STEM education with a focus on engineering education within the department of teaching and learning at Ohio State. He studies topics including, but not limited to, cognitive development, learning, teaching, and the social contexts within which they occur. He is an experienced graduate teaching associate with the first-year engineering program. He is also currently the outreach chair of the ASEE Student Chapter at OSU. His research interests include: (a) technology, (b) diversity and inclusion, and (c) retention and success, with a particular focus on students in STEM fields. His e-mail is

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Blossom A. Barrett Ohio State University

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Blossom A. Barrett is a doctoral student in higher education and student affairs at Ohio State University and a graduate research associate for the Center for Inclusion, Diversity & Academic Success. Her research interests include: (a) alternative programs to finance postsecondary education, (b) equity and access in higher education, and (c) the relationship between salient social identities and college student retention and success.

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African American and Hispanic STEM Students’ Engagement at Predominantly White InstitutionsAbstractAlthough research has shown that involvement is a helpful predictor of students’ future success,underrepresented minorities (i.e. African Americans and Hispanics) face unique obstacles atpredominantly White institutions, which limit their engagement in useful activities. Empiricalresearch has consistently shown that the time and energy students devote to educationallypurposeful activities is the greatest predictor of college outcomes ranging from cognitive andintellectual development,1,2 to moral and ethical development,3 to persistence and degreecompletion.4 While general findings typically persist across racial/ethnic groups, studies haveshown that historically underrepresented minorities (URMs [such as African Americans andHispanics]) face several obstacles at predominantly White institutions (PWIs) that impede theirengagement including negative, “chilly” campus environments,5 unsupportive faculty members,6strong familial obligations,7 and very few same-race peers upon whom they can rely for supportand friendship.8Having supportive faculty members, welcoming learning environments, and a critical mass ofsame-race peers upon whom one may lean for support can be particularly important for AfricanAmerican and Hispanic students in academic disciplines, such as science, technology,engineering, and math (STEM), where they are sorely underrepresented and report a low sense ofbelonging.9 Often studied in a homogenous group URMs are shown to have academic successwhen they feel they belong in STEM fields.10 From 2000-2009 the share of STEM bachelor’sdegrees for Hispanic students had continued to grow, albeit at a slow rate, while AfricanAmerican student’s share has not seen any statistical significant increase or decrease.11Despite existing research on URMs, very little work focuses on understanding and comparingAfrican American and Hispanic STEM college students’ engagement at PWIs. The present studyaddresses this gap in the research by beginning to disaggregate and uncover the differences inracial/ethnic identity experiences of URMs in STEM fields. Specifically, the purpose of thisstudy was to measure (a) differences between African American and Hispanic STEM students’engagement in educationally purposeful activities as defined by prior research,10 (b) differencesamong African American and Hispanic STEM students’ engagement in terms of sex/gender, and(c) the net effect of academic challenge and interaction with faculty and peers on AfricanAmerican and Hispanic STEM student outcomes.Survey data from 698 undergraduate college students majoring in STEM fields who responded tothe 2008-2009 national administration of the revised College Student Experiences in STEMQuestionnaire (CSESQ) was analyzed to measure African American and Hispanic students’engagement in educationally purposeful activities. Results from the present study found thatstudent satisfaction in college was positively related to time spent preparing for class andfrequency of interactions with faculty members about careers. Furthermore, African Americanand Hispanic STEM students who engaged peers of different opinions or spent significantamounts of time studying on academic work reported higher scores on personal and social gainsthan their same-race peers who did so less frequently.Bibliography[1] Anaya, G. (1996). College experiences and student learning: The influence of active learning, college environments and cocurricular activities. Journal of College Student Development, 37, 611-622.[2] Strayhorn, T. L. (2008). Examining the relationship between collaborative learning and perceived intellectual development among African American males in college. Journal of Excellence in College Teaching, 19(2&3), 31-50.[3] Jones, C. E., & Watt, J. D. (1999). Psychosocial development and moral orientation among traditional-aged college students. Journal of College Student Development, 40, 125-132.[4] Braxton, J. M., Milem, J. F., & Sullivan, A. S. (2000). The influence of active learning on the college student departure process: Toward a revision of Tinto's theory. The Journal of Higher Education, 71(5), 569-590.[5] Hurtado, S., Milem, J. F., Clayton-Pederson, A., & Allen, W. A. (1999). Enacting diverse learning environments: Improving the climate for racial/ethnic diversity on campus (ASHE-ERIC Report Series Vol. 26, No. 8). Washington, DC: George Washington University.[6] Guiffrida, D. A. (2005). Othermothering as a framework for understanding African American students definitions of student-centered faculty. The Journal of Higher Education, 76(6), 701-723.[7] Hernandez, J. C. (2000). Understanding the retention of Latino college students. Journal of College Student Development, 41(6), 575-588.[8] Feagin, J. R., Vera, H., & Imani, N. (1996). The agony of education: Black students at White colleges and universities. New York: Routledge.[9] Strayhorn, T. L. (2012). College students' sense of belonging: A key to educational success. New York, NY: Routledge.[10] Kuh, G. D. (1995). The other curriculum: Out-of-class experiences associated with student learning and personal development. Journal of Higher Education, 66, 123-155.[11] Pascarella, E. T., & Terenzini, P. T. (2005). How college affects students: A third decade of research (Vol. 2). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Strayhorn, T. L., & Bie, F., & Long, L. L., & Barrett, B. A. (2014, June), African American and Hispanic STEM Students’ Engagement at Predominantly White Institutions Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20035

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