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Exploring and Developing Hispanic STEM Education in West Texas

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Enhancing the Underrepresented Student Experience

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.577.1 - 24.577.14

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Paper Authors


Aaron S. Hunt West Texas A&M University

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Aaron S. Hunt teaches and researches rural Hispanic education internationally.

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Pamela Renee Lockwood West Texas A&M University

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Emily M. Hunt West Texas A&M University

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ASEE 2014ABSTRACT Over the last six academic years (2005-2012), West Texas A&M University (WTAMU) hasexperienced a major increase in the number of first-time-in college, first-generation, Hispanic studentsfrom the Texas Panhandle choosing to major in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics(STEM) fields. This underrepresented population of STEM majors at WTAMU has increased by 152%from 103 to 260 which is considerably higher than the overall increase in STEM students (56%) and theoverall increase in the Hispanic student population at WTAMU (64%). This rapid growth greatlyoutpaces the increase in the regional K-12 Hispanic population, which is 20.13% since 2005. Because ofthe national need for a diverse STEM workforce and the rapidly growing Hispanic population of Texas aswell as in the rest of the country, it is imperative that we understand what is occurring to spur thisincrease in Hispanic STEM student enrollment. The majority of the research conducted on factors thatinfluence Hispanic student choice of institution and STEM major, and factors which influence theirsuccess has been conducted using sample student populations from primarily urban populations. Littleresearch has investigated the rural Hispanic student population. The predominantly young Hispanicpopulation is rapidly migrating across the country, including the rural U.S. and spurring populationincreases with high birth-to-death ratios. If, as the research indicates Hispanic students are choosing post-secondary institutions due to proximity to family, cost and size of the institution, then the impact of ruralregional institutions will be substantial in the immediate future. The goal of this exploratory, two-phase,sequential mixed methods study is to develop testable hypotheses about the sources of the large recentincreases in Hispanic student enrollments in STEM fields of the Texas Panhandle region as well to offerrecommendations about how this growth can be supported and enhanced. In the first phase and primaryfocus of this proposal, the choice of STEM major and institution and elements influencing this choice willbe initially explored using qualitative interviews to develop a grounded theory to explain the significantincrease of Hispanic STEM students enrolled at WTAMU. The results of the qualitative analysis willlead to a quantitative investigation that will develop and test a survey instrument designed to verify theinitial qualitative results and measure the relationship between influences identified by the rural Hispanic ASEE 2014students. Identification of the predominant influences on the growth of rural, first generation Hispanicstudents in STEM fields can transform the strategies used for the recruitment and retention nationwide.As Hispanic students continue to choose institutions that are close to home and family, the importance ofregional institutions in expanding the STEM pipeline will grow. This exploratory study will lead toidentification of current phenomena in the dramatic increase that has been elucidated in Texas andthrough dissemination to K-12 education, STEM education, and higher education administration, spurfuture research on Hispanic STEM student success and education.

Hunt, A. S., & Lockwood, P. R., & Hunt, E. M. (2014, June), Exploring and Developing Hispanic STEM Education in West Texas Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana.

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