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Antiracist Institutional Transformation Matters: How Can Community Cultural Wealth and Counter-space Processes Illuminate Areas for Change?

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Changing How We Pursue Change

Tagged Divisions

Equity and Culture & Social Justice in Education

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Paper Authors


Emily Knaphus-Soran University of Washington

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Emily Knaphus-Soran is a Senior Research Scientist at the Center for Evaluation and Research for STEM Equity (CERSE) at the University of Washington. She works on the evaluation of several projects aimed at improving diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM fields. She also conducts research on the social-psychological and institutional forces that contribute to the persistence of race and class inequalities in the United States. Emily earned a PhD and MA in Sociology from the University of Washington, and a BA in Sociology from Smith College.

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Daiki Hiramori University of Washington Orcid 16x16

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Daiki Hiramori is a Graduate Research Assistant at the Center for Evaluation & Research for STEM Equity (CERSE) at the University of Washington. His research interests include quantitative methodology, queer and feminist studies, sexuality and gender stratification, demography of sexual orientation and gender identity, and Japanese society. In addition to an MA in Sociology and a Graduate Certificate in Feminist Studies from the University of Washington, he holds a BA in Sociology with a minor in Mathematics from International Christian University in Tokyo, Japan.

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Elizabeth Litzler University of Washington

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Elizabeth Litzler, Ph.D., is the director of the University of Washington Center for Evaluation and Research for STEM Equity (UW CERSE) and an affiliate assistant professor of sociology. She has been at UW working on STEM Equity issues for more than 17 years. Dr. Litzler is a member of ASEE, 2020-2021 chair of the ASEE Commission on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and a former board member of the Women in Engineering ProActive Network (WEPAN). Her research interests include the educational climate for students, faculty, and staff in science and engineering, assets based approaches to STEM equity, and gender and race stratification in education and the workforce. She was awarded the 2020 WEPAN Founders Award.

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The current study is motivated by an assets-based Critical Race Theory (CRT) approach aimed at developing a better understanding of the ways that knowledge and experience possessed by students from systemically marginalized groups contributes to their educational success (Harper, 2010; Yosso, 2005). We focus specifically on the community cultural wealth (CCW) framework, which highlights the cultural resources of systemically marginalized populations nurtured by families and communities to “survive and resist macro and micro-forms of oppression” (Yosso, 2005:77). This perspective can illuminate resources and strategies that students who persist in engineering and other STEM fields utilize along their educational pathway, and help explain gaps in educational outcomes by identifying where institutions are failing to recognize and appreciate the assets that students from marginalized groups possess.

This paper presents findings from an analysis of individual interviews with 11 students from racial/ethnic groups minoritized in STEM (Black/African American, Hispanic/Latinx, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, American Indian/Alaska Native) who were approaching graduation and focus groups with an additional 50-100 students across five university campuses to be conducted Winter/Spring 2021. These students are part of the Pacific Northwest Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (PNW LSAMP), a program that provides academic and social support for students from minoritized racial/ethnic groups. The paper is motivated by three research questions: What existing institutional structures (including student support programs like LSAMP), facilitate/inhibit the production/use of the different types of CCW, and how? How do student support programs act as a counter space that validates student experiences? How can student support programs elevate the value placed on different types of CCW?

Preliminary findings from our analysis of interview data align with Margherio et al.'s (2020) research highlighting the interplay between CCW and counterspaces – another CRT concept. Counterspaces are sites where individuals from marginalized racial/ethnic groups can find affirmation and validation unavailable within predominantly white and endemically racist social institutions (Case & Hunter, 2012; Yosso & Lopez, 2010). Students who have persisted in STEM into their Junior or Senior year describe LSAMP as a resource that helped them both activate existing forms of capital/cultural resources they possessed entering into college, and helped them develop skills and networks that contributed to continuing success. In particular, LSAMP is a space where students can both activate and further develop social capital through the counterspace process of direct relational transactions. Focus groups with LSAMP students will allow us to further examine the role of student programs like LSAMP in fostering counterspace processes, and missed opportunities within student programs and the university as a whole to recognize/value/amplify the community cultural wealth possessed by students from minoritized groups.

Knaphus-Soran, E., & Hiramori, D., & Litzler, E. (2021, July), Antiracist Institutional Transformation Matters: How Can Community Cultural Wealth and Counter-space Processes Illuminate Areas for Change? Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36687

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