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CAREER: Exploring LGBTQ Student Trajectories and Belonging in STEM Through Social Network Analysis

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Conference

2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Minneapolis, MN

Publication Date

August 23, 2022

Start Date

June 26, 2022

End Date

June 29, 2022

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count

7

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/42024

Download Count

136

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Paper Authors

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Bryce Hughes Montana State University - Bozeman

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Bryce E. Hughes is an Associate Professor in Adult and Higher Education at Montana State University, and holds a Ph.D. in Higher Education and Organizational Change from the University of California, Los Angeles, as well as an M.A. in Student Development Administration from Seattle University and a B.S. in General Engineering from Gonzaga University. His research interests include teaching and learning in engineering, STEM education policy, and diversity and equity in STEM. He is currently Principal Investigator on an NSF CAREER funded project examining the experiences of LGBTQ students in STEM.

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biography

Sidrah MGWatson

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Mother, Graduate research assistant, Post Traditional student exploring Queer & Trans student experiences in STEM

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Sarah Heller

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Sarah Heller is a Freshman at Montana State University - Bozeman. She is majoring in Physics with minors in Mathematics and Data Science.

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Leilani Contos

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Abstract

Research shows that the LGBTQ climate in engineering, and other STEM, undergraduate degree programs is rife with heteronormativity and cissexism, leading LGBTQ students to leave STEM majors and careers at higher rates than their heterosexual, cisgender peers. In order to develop a diverse STEM workforce and adequately prepare the next generation of professionals in STEM, higher education, and especially engineering education, must address inequities such as these to ensure broad participation in STEM fields. This NSF CAREER-funded project helps meet this need by examining the participation of LGBTQ students in STEM fields.

The project focuses on three primary research aims to address this purpose: test the relationships between the composition of LGBTQ students’ social networks and non-cognitive STEM outcomes, compare STEM degree completion rates between LGBTQ students and their cisgender, heterosexual peers, and explore the intersection of STEM discipline-based identity (e.g., engineering identity, science identity) with sexual and gender identity. This project stands to improve our understanding of how to broaden participation in STEM by pursuing robust research efforts that illuminate the ways sexual and gender identity shape trajectories into, through, and out of STEM.

The purpose of this poster is to present preliminary outcomes from the first research aim of the project, which is to test the relationship between composition of students’ social networks and non-cognitive outcomes, and compare these relationships by sexual and gender identities. We hypothesize that homophily within students’ social networks, especially for heterosexual and cisgender students, will predict greater levels of identification with one’s STEM discipline, sense of belonging in STEM, and commitment to a STEM major. LGBTQ students whose LGBTQ connections are primarily outside STEM are hypothesized to feel more of a pull away from STEM.

This poster focuses on the social network analysis phase of the project, including instrument development, data collection procedures, and preliminary analysis of the data. Data collection will commence in the spring 2022 semester. Social network analysis (SNA) is a method that measures and represents the patterns and information of contextually bound structural relationships to explain why the relationships occur and the outcomes of their existence, and SNA is only recently gaining ground in educational research.

We developed a survey that incorporates generating an ego-centric social network, or the people an individual relies on most for support, with existing measures for sense of belonging, discipline-based identity, and commitment to field of study, adapted for this study’s purpose. The survey validation procedure included cognitive interviews with undergraduate students and expert reviews by engineering education and institutional research experts. Data collection will occur at five colleges and universities nation-wide, representing a range of institutional types, geographical diversity, and student body diversity. The poster will detail the theory and procedures that constitute SNA research, the survey development process for this phase of the project, and preliminary results from analysis of the data.

Hughes, B., & MGWatson, S., & Heller, S., & Contos, L. (2022, August), CAREER: Exploring LGBTQ Student Trajectories and Belonging in STEM Through Social Network Analysis Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN. https://peer.asee.org/42024

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