Crystal City, Virginia
April 29, 2018
April 29, 2018
May 2, 2018
Diversity and Undergraduate Education
Research shows that students who feel that they belong in an engineering department are more likely to develop a strong engineering identity and become situated in the engineering community. Perceptions of an unwelcoming academic culture are particularly detrimental for students from populations that are currently underrepresented. Additional research investigating students’ perceptions of engineering culture, engineering identity, and their own sense of belonging is needed.
This study explored undergraduate engineering students’ perceptions of their sense of belonging in their engineering program as well as in their future workplaces, particularly as these related to their social identities. It was conducted in a multidisciplinary engineering department at a large public university. A climate survey was administered (n=279), and twenty-two focus groups were conducted with entering and soon-to-be-graduating students.
Our findings reveal a number of surprising tensions in how students understand their own identities and engineering culture. For example, in focus groups students with dominant paradigm identities (i.e., white, male, straight, able-bodied, etc.) did not recognize the ways in which their privileged social location might relate to their own or others’ success within their engineering program, but analysis of climate survey data showed that students across identity groups perceived their engineering programs to be less welcoming to non-dominant identity groups. Similarly, a common expressed theme in the focus groups was the relative sense of gender equity in their engineering programs, but participants across the board shared experiences where females assumed lower-status roles compared to her male counterparts. Finally, students with marginalized identities expressed a sense that the workforce would be exclusionary. Only in some cases was this expectation informed by previous, negative, workplace experiences (e.g., while interning). These findings suggest avenues for future research, as well the need for interventions to improve the climate and experiences of underrepresented students.
Godbole, A., & Miller, B., & Bothwell, M. K., & Montfort, D., & Davis, S. C. (2018, April), Engineering Students' Perceptions of Belonging through the Lens of Social Identity Paper presented at 2018 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity Conference, Crystal City, Virginia. https://jee.org/29530
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