Asee peer logo

Board # 87 : Native-Born and Foreign-Born Black Students in STEM: Addressing STEM Identity and Belonging Barriers and their Effects on STEM Retention and Persistence at the Two Year College

Download Paper |


2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topics

Diversity and NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Pamela M Leggett-Robinson Georgia State University-Perimeter College

visit author page

Dr. PAMELA LEGGETT-ROBINSON is the Science Department Associate Chair and an Associate Professor of Chemistry on the Decatur campus of Georgia State University-Perimeter College. She earned her B.S. in Chemistry from Georgia State University and M.S. in Bio-Inorganic Chemistry from Tennessee Technological University. She received her Ph.D. in Physical Organic Chemistry from Georgia State University in 2003. Dr. Leggett-Robinson is the Principal Investigator of GPC’s $1.5 million NSF STEP grant and continues to work closely with other STEM committees. Dr. Leggett-Robinson is published in Polymer, The Journal of Undergraduate Chemical Research, Heterocyclic Communications, A Journal of Oncology and Hematology, The Chemical Educator, and the Journal of College Science Teaching. She has made numerous presentations at both national and regional scientific meetings and has been featured in in a TRIO publication (Council of Education) highlighting “Academic All-Stars”, in the ACS publication In Chemistry, in a Science Education publication from Cornell University, and twice in Georgia Perimeter College’s publication The Chronicle.

visit author page

author page

Brandi Villa Belay Consulting LLC

author page

Naranja C Davis Georgia State University Perimeter College

Download Paper |


Retention and persistence of STEM students at two year colleges continue to be a significant concerns. Numerous efforts have been initiated to increase the numbers and success of students majoring in STEM disciplines; however, factors influencing retention and persistence of STEM majors continue to be problematic. One of the leading reasons for low STEM retention and persistence among non-traditional students at both the two-year and four-year colleges is an academic culture unwelcoming of women and minorities. Although many institutions have made strides in fostering success among underrepresented minorities (URMs) in STEM, studies indicated that the overall STEM academic culture at many institutions remain unwelcoming of URMs. For the two-year college STEM student, the unwelcoming STEM culture undermines their sense of identity and belonging which are fundamental to their retention and persistence in STEM disciplines.

In an effort to address the issue of low STEM retention and persistence rates at a 2-year institution, a STEM student support program was developed in Spring 2012 through National Science Foundation funding that provided activities to increase STEM student success. The program was designed to serve students with a minimum 2.8 grade point average, who were U.S. citizens, permanent resident aliens, or refugee aliens and majoring in a STEM field of study. While working to increase STEM student success, different challenges and barriers to STEM degree attainment were discovered for native-born blacks (U.S. citizens) versus foreign-born blacks (permanent resident aliens) that had not been considered previously. Many of the studies investigating the challenges and barriers of URMs in STEM aggregate native-born and foreign-born black students into a single category. However, despite sharing a racial minority status in the US, the challenges they face pursuing a STEM degree are often starkly different. There is a dearth of publications that examine challenges in STEM identity and belongingness that are germane to these two groups.

In this paper, we explore the differences and similarities of the two groups of students and report on the STEM student support activities that are most helpful in overcoming the barriers to STEM identity and belongingness and increasing retention, graduation, and transfer rates of both groups. Data was collected over a period of four years from evaluation surveys and student interviews and focus groups completed by program participants. All protocols included questions concerning STEM identity and STEM belonging. Results are based on feedback from students and comparisons of graduation and transfer rates between the two student populations participating in the program at this community college.

Leggett-Robinson, P. M., & Villa, B., & Davis, N. C. (2017, June), Board # 87 : Native-Born and Foreign-Born Black Students in STEM: Addressing STEM Identity and Belonging Barriers and their Effects on STEM Retention and Persistence at the Two Year College Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--27945

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: © 2017 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