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Engineering Students' Perceptions of Belonging through the Lens of Social Identity

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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

Undergraduate Track - Technical Session II

Tagged Topics

Diversity and Undergraduate Education

Page Count

10

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/29530

Download Count

32

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Paper Authors

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Asha Godbole Oregon State University

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Asha Godbole is an undergraduate student at Oregon State University. She expects to graduate with a B.S. in bioengineering June 2018.

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Beverly Miller University of Virginia

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I completed my Bachelors of Science in Bioengineering at Oregon State University in June 2017. During my time at Oregon State, I was an undergraduate research assistant in the NSF funded Revolutionizing Engineering Departments (RED) group which looked at meritocracy and social justice at the undergraduate student level. I am currently a Ph.D. student at the University of Virginia in the Chemical Engineering Department.

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Michelle Kay Bothwell Oregon State University

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Michelle Bothwell is an Associate Professor of Bioengineering at Oregon State University. Her teaching and research bridge ethics, social justice and engineering with the aim of cultivating an inclusive and socially just engineering profession.

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Devlin Montfort Oregon State University

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Dr. Montfort is an Assistant Professor in the School of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering at Oregon State University

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Susannah C. Davis Oregon State University

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Susannah C. Davis is a postdoctoral research associate in the School of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering at Oregon State University. She received her Ph.D. and M.Ed. from the University of Washington, and her B.A. from Smith College. She is currently working on the NSF-funded REvolutionizing engineering and computer science Departments (RED) project at OSU. Her research focuses on organizational learning and change, particularly in higher education; learning in the workplace; curricular and pedagogical development; and the preparation of professionals for social justice goals.

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Abstract

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://peer.asee.org/29530

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