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Exploring the Success of HBCU’s Development of Black Students Earning Engineering and Computing Graduate Degrees

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topics

Diversity and NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Jay Phillip Jefferson Florida International University

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I am currently a Postdoc within SUCCEED at Florida International University. My research passions are centered at the intersections of equity in higher education, advocacy, social justice, and overall allowing for the expression of an authentic self in educational spaces in route to achieving student success.

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Alexandra Coso Strong Florida International University Orcid 16x16

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As an assistant professor of engineering education at Florida International University, Dr. Alexandra Coso Strong works and teaches at the intersection of engineering education, faculty development, and complex systems design. Alexandra completed her doctorate in aerospace engineering at Georgia Tech. Prior to attending Georgia Tech, Alexandra received a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from MIT and a master’s degree in systems engineering from the University of Virginia. Alexandra comes to FIU after completing a postdoctoral fellowship at Georgia Tech’s Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning (CETL) and three years as a faculty member at Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts. Alexandra’s research aims to amplify the voices and work of students, educators, and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) overall and support continued educational innovation within engineering at these institutions. Specifically, she focuses on (1) educational and professional development of graduate students and faculty, (2) critical transitions in education and career pathways, and (3) design as central to educational and global change.

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Trina L. Fletcher Florida International University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Fletcher is currently an Assistant Professor at Florida International University. Her research focus equity and inclusion within STEM education, STEM at HBCUs and K-12 STEM education. Prior to FIU, Dr. Fletcher served as the Director of Pre-college Programs for the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). Additionally, she spent time in industry holding technical and operations-based roles and has experience with outreach projects focused on STEM education and mentoring.

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Jade R. Moten Florida International University

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Jade R. Moten is a graduate student at Florida International University in Miami, Florida. Her research interests include
expanding diversity, equity, and inclusion practices in engineering education, policy development, TRIO programs, and quality tool implementation.

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The following paper summarizes our progress on a National Science Foundation funded research project aimed at investigating the under-explored success of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), who graduate the highest number of Blacks who go on to obtain graduate degrees in science and engineering. The purpose of this study is centered upon 1) the identification of institutional and cultural factors that support the matriculation and successful completion of graduate engineering and computing programs by Black students from HBCUs, 2) characterization of individual, institutional, and cultural factors influencing Black students from HBCUs’ interest and pursuit of a graduate degree, and 3) a dissemination framework for engaging Black HBCU students, alumni, administrators, faculty, staff and relevant non-HBCU stakeholders in activities and discussions about graduate education in engineering and computing for Blacks.

These goals are achieved through the implementation of three key phases of our research. First, Phase I seeks breadth by collecting survey data from alumni of HBCUs that majored in engineering and computer science backgrounds (we also survey STEM majors overall). Phase II will serve to develop rich insights about three HBCUs through in-depth, interview-based case studies. The institutions selected for Phase II will be informed by the responses and experiences shared through our Phase I survey. Phase III will involve sharing the integrated results from Phases I and II with HBCU students and stakeholders during a validation workshop at the National Society of Black Engineers National Convention. The empirically informed dissemination workshops will also seek to increase underrepresented minority students’ interest and preparedness for graduate programs.

To date, we have completed our Phase I survey and have developed survey marketing and outreach strategies in order to optimize survey deployment during these unprecedented times within academic research. Completion of data collection and analysis are expected within the first quarter of 2021, with our initial findings from our Phase I survey included for this paper. Additionally, we will provide insightful discussion around the selection logistics required for transitioning to our Phase II interviews at the three HBCUs decided via our analysis from Phase I. For example, initial criteria for the HBCU institutions under consideration for study recruitment include having an ABET accredited engineering program within their institution and are on NSF’s list of top 50 baccalaureate origin institutions who graduate the most undergraduates who go on to receive a PhD in science or engineering.

Research responses from our final survey as well as from the interviews developed for Phase II will be used to produce evidence-based insights and recommendations towards (1) increasing underrepresented minority students’ interest in graduate STEM degrees, (2) retaining and graduating Black students in those programs, and (3) documenting best practices for others to use in supporting student success. Additionally, this research will add to our understanding of the experiences of Black students at HBCUs more generally, including the academic pathway that details the eventual pursuit and completion of engineering and computer science graduate degrees.

Jefferson, J. P., & Strong, A. C., & Fletcher, T. L., & Moten, J. R. (2021, July), Exploring the Success of HBCU’s Development of Black Students Earning Engineering and Computing Graduate Degrees Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--37162

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