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Engineering Identity for Latina Undergraduate Students: Exploring Development and Intersecting Identities

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


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 IV

Tagged Topics

Diversity and Race/Ethnicity

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Paper Authors


Sarah Rodriguez Iowa State University

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Sarah Rodriguez, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of Higher Education at Iowa State University. Dr. Rodriguez’s research addresses issues of equity, access, and retention for Latina/o students in the higher education pipeline, with a focus on the intersections of gender and race/ethnicity for Latinas in STEM.

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Mackenzie Sissel Iowa State University

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Ronnia Estes Iowa State University


Erin Doran Iowa State University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Erin Doran is an Assistant Professor of Higher Education at Iowa State University.

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Latinas are entering higher education at greater rates than before, yet they have disproportionately lower completion rates and engineering career representation than their peers (Excelencia in Education, 2015). In many cases, Latinas may have difficulty envisioning themselves as engineering, being validated by the engineering community, and continuing within the engineering disciplines (Carlone & Johnson, 2007; Lord & Camacho, 2013). Therefore, it is imperative that scholars examine the engineering identity development of Latinas during college.

This study was framed by two research questions: 1. How do Latinas in engineering develop their engineering identities during college? 2. How do other intersectional identities influence the development of an engineering identity during college?

This study utilized role identity theory, which addresses the meanings that individuals attach to the context of their social and cultural roles, to understand the engineering identity development of undergraduate Latinas (Stryker & Burke, 2000). The study utilized a phenomenological approach to examine lived experiences of 5 undergraduate Latinas majoring in engineering at a tier-one predominantly white university. Phenomenology allowed for exploring experiences in depth and providing rich detail of meaning making and “essence” (Moustakas, 1994). Each student participated in two one-hour, semi-structured face-to-face interviews.

This study found that engineering identity for Latina students is formed and supported through interactions and involvement with individuals and groups outside normal classroom and laboratory activities. The five Latina participants named their families and campus organizations focused on women in engineering as important sources of support as they pursued their education. Further, this study found that Latinas in engineering encounter tension between their engineering identities and other identities such as their gender and racial/ethnic identities. By understanding the process of professional identity development and its interactions with other personal identities, researchers, practitioners, and administrators may develop support mechanisms that provide a holistic approach to supporting the present and future success of its engineering students.

Rodriguez, S., & Sissel, M., & Estes, R., & Doran, E. (2018, April), Engineering Identity for Latina Undergraduate Students: Exploring Development and Intersecting Identities Paper presented at 2018 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity Conference, Crystal City, Virginia.

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