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Board 202: A Preliminary Analysis of Identity Development in the Figured Worlds of High-Achieving, Low-Income Engineering Students

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2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Baltimore , Maryland

Publication Date

June 25, 2023

Start Date

June 25, 2023

End Date

June 28, 2023

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topics

Diversity and NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Bethani Cogburn University of North Carolina, Charlotte

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Doctoral candidate in Counselor Education & Supervision. Graduate Research Assistant with an NSF S-STEM sponsored program. Interested in creativity and equity in engineering education.

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Rachel Saunders University of Cincinnati

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Dr. Rachel Saunders (she/her/hers) is an Assistant Professor of Counseling, responsible for serving as the track coordinator for the School Counseling Program. Licensed as a school counselor in the state of Ohio and North Carolina, she is also a Nationally Certified Counselor. She received her Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC), her M.A. in School Counseling from UNCC as well, and her B.S in Psychology from SUNY Brockport in Upstate, NY. Dr. Saunders is a former middle and high school counselor, with additional experience working with adolescents in the North Carolina juvenile detention setting. Her clinical and research interests have focused on the role of school counselors promoting a culturally inclusive school environment and acting as agents of change within the systems of education through advocacy and leadership. This includes research on training school counselors in multicultural competence and the implementation of culturally responsive school counseling programming through a lens of social justice and trauma-informed care. She also engages in scholarship related to student equity in higher education. From K-12 schools to institutions of higher education, she is interested in researching ways to create an affirming and inclusive setting for all.

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Stephanie Galloway


Brett Tempest University of North Carolina at Charlotte Orcid 16x16

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Brett Quentin Tempest is an Assistant Professor of civil and environmental engineering at University of North Carolina, Charlotte. His primary research area is in construction materials with special emphasis on concretes and incorporation of wastes and c

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The ongoing lack of diversity in STEM fields has been described as both: a) a critical issue with a detrimental impact on the United States’ ability to compete with global innovation (Chen, 2013) and b) a systemic issue that excludes certain groups of people from opportunities for economic mobility and job security (Wait & McDonald, 2019). Historically excluded groups, such as women, Black/African Americans, Latin Americans, and economically disadvantaged individuals, continue to be in the minority in STEM (Carnevale et al., 2021). Through the years of research on historically excluded groups, researchers have asserted the importance of developing an engineering identity in determining later success in engineering (Allen & Eisenhart, 2017; Kang et al., 2019; Stipanovic & Woo, 2017). With only 8% of all engineering students entering higher education from low income backgrounds (NCES, 2016; Major et. al, 2018), these students often face significant barriers to their success (Chen, 2013; Hoxby & Avery, 2012), yet there has been very little attention given to them in the research historically. Our study seeks to address the gap related to this population and support the developing understanding of how high achieving, low income students form an engineering identity, as well as the intersectionality and salience of their other socio-cultural identities. Using the theoretical framework of figured worlds (Holland et al., 1998; Waide-James & Schwartz, 2019), we sought to explore what factors shaped the formation of an engineering identity for high achieving, low income college students participating in an engineering scholarship program. Specifically, our research questions were: 1) What factors shape the formation of engineering identity for high achieving, low income students participating in an engineering scholarship program? and 2) How salient are other social identities in the formation of their engineering identity? A constructivist grounded theory (Charmaz, 2014) design guided our selection of individual interviews and focus groups as data collection tools, allowing us to tailor our interview questions and shape our programming around the needs of participants. NSF SSTEM-sponsored program activities that could shape the figured world of participants included intentional mentoring, cohort-based seminars, targeted coursework in design courses, and connecting students to internships and co-ops. Emerging themes for our preliminary data analysis reveal the importance of peer relationships, professional mentorship, and cultural wealth, including social capital. Preliminary results from this study have the potential to increase understanding of how to best support the success of high achieving, low income college students in engineering programs, including the implementation of targeted interventions and supports, as well as shed further light on the skills they use to overcome systemic barriers.

Cogburn, B., & Saunders, R., & Galloway, S., & Tempest, B. (2023, June), Board 202: A Preliminary Analysis of Identity Development in the Figured Worlds of High-Achieving, Low-Income Engineering Students Paper presented at 2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Baltimore , Maryland. 10.18260/1-2--42608

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