July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021
July 19, 2022
Women in Engineering
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
ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2021 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015