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As Purple is to Lavender: Exploring Womanism as a Theoretical Framework in Engineering Education

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Research on Diversification, Inclusion, and Empathy I

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

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Paper Authors

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Lauren D. Thomas University of Washington


Danielle L. Watt Center for Chemistry at the Space Time Limit (CaSTL Center)

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Danielle L. Watt, PhD. is the Director of Education, Outreach, and Diversity for the Center for Chemistry at the Space Time Limit (CaSTL) at the University of California Irvine. Prior to joining CaSTL, she was a Visiting Research Scientist at Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden and a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH, DHHS.

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Kelly J. Cross University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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Dr. Cross completed her doctoral program in Engineering Education at Virginia Tech in 2015 and is currently working as a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is involved with multiple educational research projects with faculty and graduate students at UIUC. Her research interests include diversity and inclusion, teamwork skills, assessment, and identity construction.

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Jeremy Alexis Magruder University of Florida

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Doctoral student in the materials group of the Department of Civil and Coastal Engineering at the University of Florida.

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Chanel Renee Easley Techbridge

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Young woman of color with a Master of Science in Chemistry and experience in STEM Education and Outreach.

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Yael-Alexandra Jackie Monereau University of Tampa Orcid 16x16

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Yael-Alexandra J. Monereau was born in Brooklyn, New York. Her educational and professional background includes Construction Management and Mechanical Engineering; she is presently pursuing her Masters in Instructional Design and Technology.

Since 2008, she has been actively researching Augmented, Mixed, and Virtual Reality. Additional research interests include reality, construction, energy, user-computer interface, and virtual augmentation. Presently, with Elyape, LLC., an educational consulting company, which specializes in infancy starts-up, with a higher priority given to local non-profits, she provides insight to the up and coming technology.

Ms. Monereau, presently is an active member of the Associated General Contractors (AGC), American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), and the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). Through her tenure within these organizations she has served on the Board of Directors for NSBE, and multiple leadership roles throughout her undergraduate career with AGC and ASME.

For more insight into her research, review her paper: Reality in the Nuclear Industry: Augmented, Mixed, and Virtual (

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Makita R. Phillips

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Arielle M. Benjamin

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Addressing the diversity challenge in STEM education and the workforce is a central charge for a significant number of educational programs and research endeavors. Black women and girls are one group that has been historically underrepresented in STEM and as a result, a population of interest for many diversity efforts, yet many programs do not adopt a theoretical framework, womanism, created for and by Black women.

The aim is to motivate other researchers and diversity program leaders to understand and inform their efforts with womanism. In order to achieve this, we will explore the experiences of eight Black women in STEM and analyze their experiences through the lens of womanism. Our aim is to address the gap between STEM education practice and the lived experiences of Black women in STEM through the use of critical, yet often absent theory.

In order to achieve this, we used two methods that are frequently adopted in womanist scholarship: narrative and a “sister circle.” These methods when paired together offer the opportunity for participants to share out their individual story independently and then engage and discuss the same and related experiences in a group setting.

The findings suggests that womanism is a very present epistemology for Black women in STEM fields, despite the theory being grounded in sociology and psychology. The strategies that Black women in STEM educational pathways and careers use are very connected with tenants not specifically tied to STEM, nor theories currently used in the field, but rather womanist perspectives. These findings suggest that programs and efforts aimed at supporting Black women in STEM should understand and leverage a womanist perspective to increase the representation of Black women in STEM.

Thomas, L. D., & Watt, D. L., & Cross, K. J., & Magruder, J. A., & Easley, C. R., & Monereau, Y. J., & Phillips, M. R., & Benjamin, A. M. (2016, June), As Purple is to Lavender: Exploring Womanism as a Theoretical Framework in Engineering Education Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26280

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