June 15, 2014
June 15, 2014
June 18, 2014
Minorities in Engineering
24.228.1 - 24.228.10
Beyond Persistence: Graduate School Aspirations of Hispanic Engineering Students at HSIsHispanic students at HSIs (Hispanic Serving Institutions) continue to persist and aspire towardsgraduate degrees in STEM fields, despite solemn predictions about their outcomes. Althoughthey are the largest non-dominant racial group in the United States, Hispanics areoverwhelmingly underrepresented in post-secondary educational settings (Sciarra & Whitson,2007). This lack of Hispanic presence is prevalent in academic STEM (science, technology,education, and mathematics) fields, from undergraduates to doctoral degree holders. Thepresence and persistence of these students has been well-documented in an effort to identifyfactors contributing to this disparity. Studies have suggested the cultural value of “familisimo”(Saenz & Ponjuan, 2009), student debt (Malcom & Dowd, 2012), limited guidance (Crisp et al.,2009), and limited knowledge of the application process (Ramirez, 2011) may act as primarydeterrents for Hispanic students considering graduate degrees. As part of a three-yearinvestigation of these factors that encourage such persistence, this study examines theperspectives of Hispanic engineering students during their undergraduate experience.Engineering majors (n=38) at two HSIs were interviewed about their university experience andpost-graduation aspirations. At the conclusion of their sophomore year, 26 students wereconsidering graduate school in addition to the workforce. Of those, 15 (10 males; 5 females)were determined to attend an academic graduate program immediately following graduation.This study combines interview data from the students’ sophomore and junior years to describesignificant changes in post-graduation aspirations and identify protective factors that encouragethese students to persist. Semi-structured interviews were conducted to examine externalinfluences on major selection. Student responses were transcribed and coded for thematicelements using NVivo 9 software. Content analysis of the transcriptions was used to identifycommon themes across student interviews. Potential external factors such as family and facultysupport of career-related decisions, professional organization membership (e.g. ASCE, IEEE),engineering family members, and student internship experience were also examined for theircorrelational value with post-graduate aspirations.Preliminary findings suggest sophomores involved in professional organizations were mostlikely to still consider graduate degrees at the end of their junior year. Interestingly, sophomoreswho originally were not members of professional organizations later joined at least oneorganization as juniors, and half of those already holding organizational memberships increasedtheir number of professional memberships. The final sample of juniors (n=11) intending topursue graduate degrees found one student aspiring towards a doctoral degree, five studentsspecified master’s degrees, and five were undecided on degree level. Our findings suggest theremay be protective factors found in early student membership of professional organizations.These organizations provide socially supportive environments and resources to underclassmen.Our preliminary findings are unique in that few other external factors significantly affected post-graduation decisions. Specifically, it was anticipated that family-related influence would havethe greatest contribution to Hispanic students’ decisions. However, neither family support norengineer relatives had a significant effect on graduate degree aspirations. This suggestsprofessional organizations provide an influential support system and guidance for undergraduatesmaking career decisions.ReferencesCrisp, G., Nora, A., & Taggart, A. (2009). Student characteristics, pre-college, college, and environmental factors as predictors of majoring in and earning a STEM degree: An analysis of students attending a Hispanic Serving Institution. American Educational Research Journal, 46(4), 924-942.Malcom, L. E. & Dowd, A. C. (2012). The impact of undergraduate debt on the graduate school enrollment of STEM baccalaureates. The Review of Higher Education, 35(2), 265-305.Ramirez, E. (2011). “No one taught me the steps”: Latinos' experiences applying to graduate school. Journal of Latinos and Education, 10(3), 204-222.Saenz, V. B. & Ponjuan, L. (2009). The vanishing Latino male in higher education. Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, 8(1), 54-89.Sciarra, D. T. & Whitson, M. L. (2007). Predictive factors in postsecondary educational attainment among Latinos. Professional School Counseling, 10(3), 307-316.
Fleming, L. N., & Burris, S. E., & Smith, K. C., & Bliss, L. B., & Moore, I. N., & Bornmann, F. (2014, June), Beyond Persistence: Graduate School Aspirations of Hispanic Engineering Students at HSIs Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. https://peer.asee.org/20119
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