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Engineering Identity of Black and Hispanic Undergraduates: The Impact of Minority Serving Institutions

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Engineering Identity 1

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.510.1 - 23.510.18



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Paper Authors


Lorraine N. Fleming Howard University

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Lorraine Fleming is a professor of civil engineering at Howard University. She has spearheaded a number of research and intervention initiatives to attract and retain underrepresented minorities, particularly African Americans, in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines and to improving the quality of engineering education for undergraduates. She is a Carnegie Scholar and a fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

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Kalynda Chivon Smith Howard University

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Kalynda Smith is a social psychologist and Rearch Associate in the Civil Engineering Department at Howard University. Dr. Smith has conducted research involving gender role stereotypes, cognition, and the academic achievement of African American students. She is currently working on a longintudinal study that is investigating the academic pathways African American undergraduate engineering students take throughout their academic careers. Dr. Smith's research interests include the academic achievement of African American students in the STEM disciplines, development of the self among pre-adolescents, and the impact various forms of media has on students' academic achievement.

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Dawn G. Williams Howard University

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Leonard B. Bliss Florida International University

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Although it has been found that students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities(HBCUs) are more likely to become professionals than their peers at Predominantly WhiteInstitutions (PWIs), much of the research on understanding African American engineeringundergraduates’ experiences has been conducted at PWIs. A similar case can be made forHispanic engineering students at Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs). The 366 HSIs in theUnited States enroll 63% of all Hispanic students and 27% of all underrepresented minoritystudents studying in U.S. colleges and universities, but much of the research on Hispanicstudents has also been done on students matriculating at PWIs. This National ScienceFoundation-funded study focuses on African-American and Hispanic engineering undergraduatesat Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), seeking to understand their identities as engineeringundergraduates and how this identity develops while attending an MSI. This longitudinal study examines African-American and Hispanic engineeringundergraduates over a three-year period on two HBCU and two HSI campuses. This study uses amixed methods design. The quantitative data was collected using two surveys. The qualitativedata was collected from semi-structured individual interviews and focus groups. Interview andfocus group questions focused on participants’ family history, academic experience, thoughts onengineering, diversity, expectations, post-graduation plans, and their support systems.Participants (N=184) included male and female African-American and Hispanic sophomoreengineering students attending HBCUs and HSIs, respectively. This paper will address howattending an MSI influences minority students’ engineering identity development. Engineering identity was measured by participants’ rating of importance of being anengineering student. A preliminary data analysis found that the majority of students reportedthat having an engineering identity even as sophomores. The participants also reported theypossessed or were improving the skills they believed engineers must have. Both AfricanAmerican and Hispanic engineering undergraduates found benefits to attending an MSI. Theyreported benefits including curriculum that provided challenging coursework they felt theywould not find at other institutions, professors of backgrounds similar to their own who wereinvested in the students’ success, peers who were willing to create a community that workedtogether, and the institution’s overall reputation for graduating minority students in engineering.However, African American and Hispanic students typically had different overall experiences inattending an MSI, including their recognition of their institution as an MSI. The current paperwill discuss in depth the experiences of these students and how these experiences impact thedevelopment of their identity as engineers. This paper will demonstrate that minorityundergraduate engineering students at MSIs have experiences unique to what has been reportedin the literature thus far, and their experiences at MSIs specifically impact their engineeringidentity in ways that have not been found with previous research with Hispanic and AfricanAmerican engineering undergraduates.

Fleming, L. N., & Smith, K. C., & Williams, D. G., & Bliss, L. B. (2013, June), Engineering Identity of Black and Hispanic Undergraduates: The Impact of Minority Serving Institutions Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19524

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: © 2013 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