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Benefits of Utilizing Counseling Services Among Doctoral Women of Color in STEM

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Conference

2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Women in Engineering Division Technical Session 6

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

18

DOI

10.18260/1-2--36741

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/36741

Download Count

84

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Paper Authors

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Kairys Grasty University of Massachusetts, Boston

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Kairys Grasty (she/her/hers) is a first-year doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology Ph.D. program at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Prior to joining this program, Kairys worked for two years as a clinical research assistant for the Center for School Mental Health in Baltimore, MD. In 2018, she moved to Boston and went on to earn her master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling from UMass Boston. From the totality of her academic, clinical, and research experiences, Kairys’ research interests lie in working to understand the systemic barriers, biases and insensitivities that underlie many racially and ethnically diverse people’s inability or general aversion to seeking mental health support.

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Shivani Sakri Arizona State University

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Shivani Sakri (she/her/hers) is a first-year doctoral student in the Engineering Education Systems and Design Ph.D. program at Arizona State University. Prior to joining this program, Shivani pursued Mechanical Engineering from the University of Pune in India and completed her Master's in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Shivani's research interests lie in engineering control systems, experiences of women in STEM, systemic barriers and biases that dominate engineering and other STEM environments and their influence on women graduate students.

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Amanda C. Arnold Idaho State University

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Jennifer M Bekki Arizona State University

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Jennifer M. Bekki is an Associate Professor in The Polytechnic School within the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University. Her research interests include topics related to engineering student persistence, STEM graduate students (particularly women), online learning, educational data mining, and the modeling and analysis of manufacturing systems. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Bioengineering and graduate degrees in Industrial Engineering, all from Arizona State University.

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Kerrie G. Wilkins-Yel University of Massachusetts, Boston

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Dr. Kerrie G. Wilkins-Yel is an Assistant Professor of Counseling Psychology at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She examines the psychological science of environmental agents that influence persistence intentions among women, particularly women of color, in STEM.

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Madison Natarajan University of Massachusetts, Boston

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Madison Natarajan is a doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology Ph.D. program at University of Massachusetts Boston. Madison received her Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN. Her research and clinical interests stem from a feminist/intersectional perspective looking at religion and sexuality, evaluating how religious identities and morals influence self-concept in the areas of sexuality, sexual expression, self-esteem, and sexual agency.

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Bianca L. Bernstein Arizona State University

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Bianca L. Bernstein, Ph.D. is Professor of Counseling and Counseling Psychology in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts at Arizona State University. Dr. Bernstein guides the CareerWISE research program, supported by the National Science Foundation since 2006. Her over 250 publications and presentations and over $4 M in external support have focused on the application of psychological science to the career advancement of women and underrepresented minorities and the development of effective learning environments for graduate education.She is a fellow of the American Psychological Association and American Association for the Advancement of Science and has won a number of awards for her work on equity, inclusiveness and mentoring of students and faculty. Dr. Bernstein holds a bachelor’s in psychology from the University of California at Berkeley and graduate degrees in Counseling Psychology from the University of California at Santa Barbara.

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Ashley K. Randall Counseling and Counseling Psychology, Arizona State University

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Abstract

Women of color (WOC) are egregiously underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) doctoral programs. They face daily experiences of difference as they navigate intersecting minority identities of gender and race/ethnicity. These experiences with racism and discrimination impact their mental health, adding to a growing crisis around the high prevalence of mental health needs among all graduate students. For WOC in STEM, their experiences of tokenism, racism, microaggressions, and discrimination often require the use of coping mechanisms to sustain mental health and well-being. The current study aims to address the following question: When experiencing mental health difficulties during STEM doctoral programs, what motivates WOC to utilize counseling services as a coping mechanism, and what do they perceive as the associated benefits?

The sample for the study consists of 10 participants who utilized counseling services during their STEM doctoral degrees. Participants’ ages ranged from 26 to 43 and included women who identified as Hispanic/Latinx (n=2), Black or African American (n=3), and bi/multi-racial (n=5). Eight of the participants chose to complete and two chose to discontinue their doctoral programs in STEM since 2015. Participants represented nine universities in the U.S. and six different STEM fields in the biological sciences, physical sciences, mathematics, and engineering. Semi-structured interviews were conducted via the Zoom video conferencing platform and ranged in length from 60 to 90 minutes. Five questions and related probes were designed to elicit participants’ perceptions of support episodes at challenging times during their STEM doctoral programs. Participants were asked to identify a few specific challenging times, either academic or personal, during their doctoral studies and to recall interactions they perceived as supportive or not supportive as it pertained to those challenging encounters.

Preliminary results indicated a total of eight themes: four themes that described the difficult situations that served as the impetus for participants seeking counseling and four themes that described the perceived benefits of seeking counseling. With regard to the difficult situations, participants reported experiencing academic challenges, personal challenges, emotional challenges, and lack of social support. Based on participants’ narratives, it was evident that the utilization of counseling services was regarded as a beneficial experience. These reported benefits were summarized into four broad areas: feeling heard, increased self-awareness, skill building, and decision-making. The preliminary results of this study suggest that counseling may be an effective avenue for helping WOC in STEM doctoral programs cope with academic and personal challenges that have the potential to interfere with degree completion. The complete analysis, including a description of the range of ways each code was presented among those who chose to leave their degrees prior to completion and those who complete their PhDs will be included in the full paper.

Grasty, K., & Sakri, S., & Arnold, A. C., & Bekki, J. M., & Wilkins-Yel, K. G., & Natarajan, M., & Bernstein, B. L., & Randall, A. K. (2021, July), Benefits of Utilizing Counseling Services Among Doctoral Women of Color in STEM Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36741

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