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June 22, 2020
June 22, 2020
June 26, 2021
A growing number of reports suggest that a mental health crisis is plaguing STEM fields (Evans, et al., 2018). In fact, studies indicate that graduate students are six times as likely to experience elevated levels of stress, anxiety, and depression compared to the general population (Evans, et al., 2018). Graduate students from marginalized backgrounds (e.g., students of color, women, etc.) are among those to experience the highest levels of distress. These results are consistent with the extant literature that highlights the myriad of negative STEM encounters endured by women in STEM from diverse racial/ethnic backgrounds (Wilkins-Yel, Hyman, Zounlome 2018). While mental health distress is on the rise, we know very little about the ways in which STEM departmental climates influence students’ mental health. This study seeks to provide insights into the ways in which STEM environments influence the mental health and wellbeing of STEM graduate women from diverse racial/ethnic backgrounds.
Twenty-nine women in STEM doctoral programs were interviewed as part of a larger NSF project related to studying the impact of interpersonal support on persistence decisions among women doctoral students in STEM. Fourteen participants endorsed experiencing significant mental health concerns that arose as a result of academic challenges (e.g., lack of advisor support, comprehensive exams, negative lab environment, etc.). Participants in the data reported here range in age from 26 to 43 and include early career professionals who completed their doctoral degree (N = 9) and women who chose to discontinue their PhD prematurely (N = 5). Participants identified as Hispanic/LatinX (n=2), European American or White (n=4), Black or African American (n=3), and mixed race (n=5). Participants represented eight STEM fields: engineering (n=5), biological and biomedical sciences (n=3), chemistry (n=3), computer and information sciences (n=1), and mathematics and statistics (n=3). The full paper will present findings from a thematic analysis of the interviews with a focus on characterizing the ways in which STEM departmental climate affect graduate women’s mental health and the impact of elevated distress on persistence decisions.
Arnold, A. C., & Wilkins-Yel, K. G., & Bekki, J. M., & Bernstein, B. L., & Natarajan, M., & Randall, A. K., & Francies, R., & Okwu, C. E. (2020, June), Examining the Effects of STEM Climate on the Mental Health of Graduate Women from Diverse Racial/Ethnic Backgrounds Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34617
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