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Critiquing the "Underrepresented Minorities" Label

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Conference

2018 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity Conference

Location

Crystal City, Virginia

Publication Date

April 29, 2018

Start Date

April 29, 2018

End Date

May 2, 2018

Conference Session

Race/Ethnicity Track - Technical Session VI

Tagged Topics

Diversity and Race/Ethnicity

Page Count

7

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/29524

Download Count

65

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Paper Authors

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Susan E. Walden University of Oklahoma

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Dr. Susan E. Walden is the founding Director of the Research Institute for STEM Education (RISE) and an associate research professor in the Dean's office of the College of Engineering (CoE). She is also a founding member of the Sooner Engineering Education (SEED) Center.

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Deborah A. Trytten University of Oklahoma

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Dr. Deborah A. Trytten is a President's Associates Presidential Professor and Associate Professor of Computer Science and Adjunct Associate Professor of Womens' and Gender Studies at the University of Oklahoma. Her main research focus is diversity in engineering education and introductory software engineering education.

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Randa L. Shehab University of Oklahoma

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Dr. Randa L. Shehab is the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and the Nettie Vincent Boggs Professor of Engineering at the University of Oklahoma Gallogly College of Engineering. Dr. Shehab co-Directs the Master of Science degree program in Data Science and Analytics. She also serves as Director of the Sooner Engineering Education Center dedicated to engineering education related initiatives and research focused on building diversity and enhancing the educational experience for all engineering students. Dr. Shehab teaches a first-year engineering orientation course as well as undergraduate and graduate level courses in ergonomics, statistical analysis, experimental design, and industrial engineering methods. Her research is collaborative with the Research Institute for STEM Education, a multi-disciplinary research group currently investigating factors related to equity and diversity in engineering student competition teams.

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Cindy E. Foor University of Oklahoma

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Cindy E. Foor is the retired Associate Director/Research Associate for the Research Institute for STEM Education
(RISE) at the University of Oklahoma. Her contribution to the multi-disciplinary team lies in
qualitative methodologies, cultural theory and the belief that outliers offer great insight into the workings
of power. Her research interests include cultural theory, the cultural/historical construction of women’s
identities and roles in past and present societies, and most recently, equity issues surrounding gender and
underrepresented populations in engineering education. She can be contacted at cynthia.e.foor-1@ou.edu.

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Abstract

This paper will examine the use of the label "underrepresented minority" as a tool of oppression. For the past 100 years, engineering has been a domain of white, upper-class, able-bodied men. Students who do not identify within those historic norms of engineering are often referred to collectively in educational policy and literature as underrepresented minorities, abbreviated URM. Usage of this shortcut provides authors a succinct grouping, yet presents many problems. Use of underrepresented focuses the conversation on counts and proportionality, neglecting the experiences of the people comprising the numbers. The use of the noun "minorities" denies explicit personhood and focuses the context on racial identity, as evident in the title of the report, "Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering" [1]. Most importantly, the label "underrepresented minority(ies)" places the weight of being different from historic norms on the students. This label establishes their outsider position in engineering as an immutable characteristic within their social identity.

We will propose and discuss a new label to replace "underrepresented minority." In our sixteen years of qualitative research concerning equity in engineering education, we have found that exclusion is the result of systematic institutional conditions and individual agentic actions. These structures and actions preserve the historic norms and favor some students over others. In this paper, we will describe an alternative label, Excluded Identities (EI). This language choice foregrounds the engineering education system as the active agent of exclusion.

1. National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. 2017. Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering: 2017. Special Report NSF 17-310. Arlington, VA. Available at www.nsf.gov/statistics/wmpd/.

Walden, S. E., & Trytten, D. A., & Shehab, R. L., & Foor, C. E. (2018, April), Critiquing the "Underrepresented Minorities" Label Paper presented at 2018 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity Conference, Crystal City, Virginia. https://peer.asee.org/29524

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: © 2018 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