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Black Male "Buoyant Believers" in Engineering and Engineering-related Fields

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Moving the Needle: The Complexities of Race and Gender in Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.284.1 - 26.284.15



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Paper Authors


Leroy L. Long III The Ohio State University

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Dr. Leroy L. Long III recently earned his PhD in STEM Education with a focus on Engineering Education within the Department of Teaching and Learning at The Ohio State University (OSU). He earned his Masters in Mechanical Engineering at OSU and his Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering at Wright State University. He has been a Graduate Teaching Associate with the First-Year Engineering Program and a Research Affiliate with the Center for Higher Education Enterprise at OSU. He has also served as the Outreach Chair of the OSU American Society of Engineering Education Student Chapter. His research interests include: (a) technology use, (b) diversity and inclusion, and (c) retention and success, with a particular focus on students in STEM fields. To contact Dr. Long, e-mail

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Joseph Allen Kitchen The Ohio State University

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Dr. Joseph (Joey) A. Kitchen is a postdoctoral researcher and program coordinator with the Center for Higher Education Enterprise (CHEE). Dr. Kitchen manages CHEE's longitudinal, mixed-methods study of college outreach and academic support programs. He earned a Ph.D. in Higher Education and Student Affairs, a Master's of City and Regional Planning, and a Bachelor's in Psychology (minor in International Studies) from The Ohio State University. His research interests lie at the intersection of three primary topics: (a) diverse student populations, (b) educational environments and (c) the social-psychological impact of college on students.

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Trevion S. Henderson The Ohio State University

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Trevion Henderson is a master’s student in the Higher Education and Student Affairs (HESA) program at The Ohio State University and a Graduate Research Associate for the Center for Higher Education Enterprise (CHEE). He most recently served as an Undergraduate Research Assistant for Dr. Terrell L. Strayhorn in the Ohio State College of Education and Human Ecology’s Center for Inclusion, Diversity, and Academic Success (iDEAS) while completing his bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Engineering.

Trevion's research interests center on three foci in STEM Education: pedagogical strategies, practices and policies that broaden minority participation, and the impact of workforce and industry needs on curriculum.

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Black Buoyant Believers in Engineering   Abstract  In order for the nation to maintain a competitive edge internationally and continue contributing significant advances in science and engineering, it is imperative that we invest in developing and educating a talented pool of racial and ethnic minority students who make up a steadily increasing proportion of the populace. Despite this urgent need, underrepresented minorities (URMs) such as Blacks and Latinos make up only 7­10% of the science and engineering workforce.1 In addition, URMs are more likely to switch to non­STEM majors than their White peers and much less likely to complete their degree within 6 years.2­4   These jarring statistics suggest an urgent need to intervene and create pathways to success for URMs majoring in science and engineering. Understanding the factors that influence the success of STEM students who fit this demographic profile is a national imperative and may be the key to addressing the projected science and engineering shortages in the U.S. labor market.5­6 Scholars have previously examined the role of several psychological factors (e.g., self­efficacy) in  minority student success in STEM fields.7­8 However, additional work is necessary to better understand the multiple pathways to success (or failure) available to URM students. The need for such work is particularly salient for Black students who often receive negative information related to their academic abilities which affects social­psychological well­being (i.e., self­efficacy) and ultimate achievement.9   The purpose of this paper is to critically examine the narratives of Black engineering students to understand the role of academic self­efficacy and student resiliency. The study draws on Strayhorn’s ‘buoyant believers’ framework to describe Black students’ experiences in engineering fields and to explain the role of self­efficacy and resiliency in their success.10 The framework offers practitioners, faculty, and staff who work with minority engineering students guidance for addressing the challenges students face and direction for helping those students to overcome those challenges. Importantly, this framework allowed the researchers to go beyond typical explanations for racial disparities in student success (e.g., lack of pre­college preparation or interest) to provide new insights into Black student success in engineering during college.   For this study, in­depth interview data from 30 Black students majoring in engineering or engineering­related fields were analyzed through the lens of the ‘buoyant believers’ framework. The buoyant believers framework is a typology that encompasses students’ academic self­efficacy and resiliency in an effort to describe students and to guide our understanding of students’ college experiences.  Results can be summarized in one of four categories including: (a) students who are confident and resilient, (b) students who are confident but lack resiliency, (c) students who lack confidence but exhibit resiliency, and (d) students who are neither resilient nor confident. Each category is associated with particular student characteristics and college outcomes. Strategies to ensure student success can be tailored to fit the needs of students in alignment with their placement in the ‘buoyant believers’ typology. Building on the utility of the buoyant believers typology, we describe strategies related to mentoring, modeling, enrichment activities, and curriculum mastery recommended for the success of each respective student “type” that will prove useful to faculty,staff, and practitioners who work with Black engineering students.     Bibliography   [1] National Science Foundation, Division of Science Resources Statistics, 2011.  [2] Center for Institutional Data Exchange and Analysis. (2000). 1999­2000 Science, math, engineering, and technology (SMET) retention report. Norman: University of Oklahoma.  [3] Mendez, G., Burkirk, T. D., Lohr, S., & Haag, S. (2008). Factors associated with persistence in science and engineering majors: An exploratory study using classification trees and random forests. Journal of Engineering Education, 97(1), 57­70.  [4] National Science Board. (2006). Science and engineering indicators 2006 (Two volumes). Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation.  [5] May, G. S., & Chubin, D. E. (2003). A retrospective on undergraduate engineering success for underrepresented minority students. Journal of Engineering Education, 92(1), 27­39.  [6] White House. (2014). Progress report on coordinating federal science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. Retrieved from­ED_FY15_Final.pdf  [7] MacPhee, D., Farro, S., & Canneto, S. (2013). Academic self efficacy and performance of underrepresented STEM majors: Gender, ethnic, and social class patterns. Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, 13(1), 347­369.   [8] Museus, Palmer, Davis, & Maramba (2011). Racial and ethnic minority students' success in STEM education. Hoboken: New Jersey: Jossey­Bass, 2011.  [9] Steele, C. M., & Aronson, J. (1995). Stereotype threat and the intellectual test performance of Blacks. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69(5), 797.   [10] Strayhorn, T. L. (2012). Challenges of Black College Students: New Insights for Policy, Practice, and Research responds to Fleming’s prescient, even prophetic, pronouncement. The Evolving Challenges of Black College Students: New Insights for Policy, Practice, and Research, 201.    

Long, L. L., & Kitchen, J. A., & Henderson, T. S. (2015, June), Black Male "Buoyant Believers" in Engineering and Engineering-related Fields Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23623

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