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Board 387: Sociotechnical Systems Perspective of Underrepresented Minority Student Success at a Predominantly White Institution

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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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Arunkumar Pennathur University of Texas, El Paso

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Dr. Arunkumar Pennathur is Associate Professor of Industrial Engineering at the University of Texas at El Paso. He holds a doctoral degree in industrial engineering from the University of Cincinnati. He has successfully conducted many NSF projects in STEM education.

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Priyadarshini R. Pennathur University of Texas, El Paso

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Dr. Priyadarshini R. Pennathur is an associate professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering.

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Emily G. Blosser University of Louisiana, Lafayette

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Emily Blosser is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Louisiana Lafayette. She has expertise in qualitative methods, including grounded theory and narrative analysis. She prioritizes the importance of using sociological theories to shed light on the underrepresentation of women and people of color in engineering. Her work is committed to shifting engineering environments towards diversity, inclusion and equity.

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Nicholas A. Bowman University of Iowa Orcid 16x16

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Nicholas A. Bowman is the Mary Louise Petersen Chair in Higher Education, professor of Higher Education and Student Affairs, senior research fellow in the Public Policy Center, and director of the Center for Research on Undergraduate Education at the University of Iowa. His research uses a social psychological lens to explore key issues in higher education, including student success, diversity and equity, admissions, rankings, and quantitative research methodology.

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The overall objective of this project funded by the NSF-IUSE program is to employ a sociotechnical systems lens and framework and identify and evaluate organization-wide capacities and change catalysts in a predominantly white institution's college of engineering. The college of engineering is viewed as a sociotechnical organization with social and technical subsystems. The social subsystem models who talks to whom about what. The technical subsystem models the main activities and programs in the organization. Our project aims to: (1) assess the technical system’s capacity to support recruitment and retention through a technical system analysis; (2) assess the social system’s capacity to support recruitment and retention through a social system analysis; and (3) generate systemwide catalysts for URM student success. We conducted semi-structured hour-long interviews with 38 stakeholders including students, faculty, administrators and staff from various departments and student organizations within and outside the college. We are qualitatively analyzing the interview data to identify technical and social system barriers and enablers.

Data analysis is ongoing, but our preliminary findings and insights are as follows: (1) social system barriers for URM students were interactions with peers in classroom environment (leading to a sense of isolation and a lack of belonging), interactions with faculty and staff especially in relating to their needs and being empathetic, and familial concerns and being able to support their family financially.

(2) interactions with their friends was the top social system enabler for URM students. Family also provided them comfort and solace while attending to the rigors of college. They also felt that living at home would alleviate some of the financial burdens they faced.

(3) the lack in numbers (and hence the lack of diversity and identity), curricular and instructional methods, and high school preparation were cited as the most important technical system barriers these students faced.

(4) students identified as technical system enablers the professional development opportunities they had, their participation in students organizations, particularly in identity-based organizations such as NSBE, SHPE and WISE, and how that helped them forge new contacts and provided emotional support during their stay here.

(5) there is recognition among the administrators and the staff working with URM students that diversity is important in the student body and that the mission of enabling URM student success is important, although the mission itself with respect to URM students is somewhat poorly defined and understood.

Pennathur, A., & Pennathur, P. R., & Blosser, E. G., & Bowman, N. A. (2023, June), Board 387: Sociotechnical Systems Perspective of Underrepresented Minority Student Success at a Predominantly White Institution Paper presented at 2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Baltimore , Maryland. 10.18260/1-2--43096

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