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Exploring the Career Thinking of Native American Engineering Students (Research)

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Minorities in Engineering Division Technical Session 4

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

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Paper Authors


Nicole M. Colston Oklahoma State University Orcid 16x16

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Nicole M. Colston is currently assistant research professor in the OSU Center for Research in STEM Teaching and Learning. Her interests in K-20 engineering education include career role models, early-aged career awareness, and identity development.

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Sherri L. Turner University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

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Sherri L. Turner, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in Counseling and Student Personnel Psychology at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. She has 18 years’ experience conducting research on the career development and STEM career development of Native American and other underrepresented adolescents, college students, and young adults. She has conducted extensive research on Social Cognitive Career Theory (Lent, Brown, & Hackett, 1994, 2000), and the Integrative Contextual Model of Career Development (Lapan, 2004; Turner & Lapan, 2005), and has worked on expanding and generalizing these theories across populations and environments. She has over 100 publications and professional presentations that focus on these lines of inquiry, and she has connected this body of work to the work of other experts in the career, and counseling psychology fields (e.g., Alliman-Brissett & Turner, 2010; Turner et al., 2017; Turner, Smith et al., 2015; Turner, Trotter et al., 2006). She has been awarded over $1 million to support her research. She currently is PI on an EEC EAGER award focusing on factors that affect Native Americans’ entry into and persistence in the engineering faculty.

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Gale Mason Chagil Culture Inquiry Consulting, LLC

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Dr. Gale Mason-Chagil, Cultural Inquiry Consulting, LLC, has 18 years’ experience conducting culturally-competent educational and career development research with Native American communities.
She specializes in social change and social justice research and in consultation for projects administered by schools, community-based organizations, and foundations. She spearheaded the Bush Foundation interventions at multiple sites serving Native American, and other underrepresented minority students in order to assist them in completing high school and transitioning into college. As a PI on that project, she developed the project design and implementation methodology, as well as engaged participants and
community stakeholders. She is currently working with the NSF EAGER Collaborative Research: Towards Increasing Native American Engineering Faculty.

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Sue C. Jacobs Ph.D. Oklahoma State University

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Sarah Johnson Oklahoma State University

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Recent reports indicate that there are less than 1900 (0.6%) Native American undergraduate and graduate engineering students nationwide (Yoder, 2016). Although Native Americans are underrepresented in the field of engineering, there is very little research that explores the contributing factors. The purpose of our exploratory research is to identify the barriers, supports, and personal strengths that Native American engineering students identify as being influential in developing their career interests and aspirations in engineering. Informed by research in Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT; Lent, Brown, & Hackett, 1994, 2000), we conducted an on-line survey to assess the motivational variables that guide the career thinking and advancement of students preparing to enter the field of engineering. Instrumentation included Mapping Vocational Challenges (Lapan & Turner, 2000, 2009, 2014), Perceptions of Barriers (McWhirter, 1997), the Structured Career Development Inventory (Lapan & Turner, 2006; Turner et al., 2006), the Career-Related Parent Support Scale (Turner, Alliman-Brissett, Lapan, Udipi, & Ergun, 2003), and the Assessment of Campus Climate for Underrepresented Groups (Rankin, 2001), which were used to measure interests, goals, personal strengths and internal and external barriers and supports.

Participants (N=23) consisted of graduate (≈25%) and undergraduate (≈75%) Native American engineering students. Their survey responses indicated that students were highly interested in, and had strong self-efficacy for, outcome expectations for, and persistence for pursuing their engineering careers. Their most challenging barriers were financial (e.g., having expenses that are greater than income, and having to work while going to school just to make ends meet) and academic barriers (e.g., not sufficiently prepared academically to study engineering). Perceptions of not fitting in and a lack of career information were also identified as moderately challenging barriers. Students endorsed a number of personal strengths, with the strongest being confidence in their own communication and collaboration skills, as well as commitment to their academic and career preparation. The most notable external support to their engineering career development was their parents’ encouragement to make good grades and to go to a school where they could prepare for a STEM career. Students overall found that their engineering program climates (i.e., interactions with students, faculty, and staff, and program expectations of how individuals treat each other), were cooperative, friendly, equitable, and respectful. Study results are interpreted in light of theory, and recommendations for future research and practice are provided.

Colston, N. M., & Turner, S. L., & Mason Chagil, G., & Jacobs, S. C., & Johnson, S. (2019, June), Exploring the Career Thinking of Native American Engineering Students (Research) Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32811

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