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I Lead, Therefore I Am: The Impact of Student-mentor Leadership Opportunities on STEM Identity Development and Sustainability

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Minorities in Engineering Division Technical Session 4

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Monique S. Ross Florida International University Orcid 16x16

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Monique Ross, Assistant Professor at Florida International University in the School of Computing and Information Sciences holds a doctoral degree in Engineering Education from Purdue University. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering from Elizabethtown College, a Master’s degree in Computer Science and Software Engineering from Auburn University, eleven years of experience in industry as a software engineer, and three years as a full-time faculty in the departments of computer science and engineering. Her interests focus on broadening participation in computing and engineering through the exploration of: 1) race, gender, and identity in the computing and engineering; 2) discipline-based education research (with a focus on computer science and computer engineering courses) in order to inform pedagogical practices that garner interest and retain women and minorities in computer-related engineering fields. 

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Trina L. Fletcher University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Fletcher is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB). Her research focus includes people of color and women in STEM education. More specifically, her research looks at utilizing quality management tools such as Six Sigma DMAIC and Total Quality Management (TQM) to improve pre-collegiate and collegiate STEM education. Prior to UAPB, Dr. Fletcher served as the Senior Manager for the Summer Engineering Experience of Kids (SEEK) program and 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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Vishodana Thamotharan Florida International University

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Atalie Garcia

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The national imperative to increase the production of computer science and engineering professionals has garnered the attention of both public and private sectors of the economy. As such, private companies, such as Verizon have begun to fund what they call Innovation in Learning (VIL) initiatives that aim to increase participation in these fields. Initiatives such as these, also recognize the need to diversify the engineering workplace by focusing specifically on engaging, inspiring, and motivating underrepresented minority (URM) youth by exposing them to engineering and other STEM concepts. During summer 2017, a southeastern university participated in hosting one of the seventeen Verizon sponsored STEM Camps. The university hosted 144 URM middle school kids for three weeks on campus to explore engineering habits of mind, engineering design principles, and computer science application development fundamentals. The camp was primarily facilitated by fourteen student mentors. One of the principle elements of the camp was to have mentors that reflected the demographics of the student population. As such, the mentor demographics consisted of 12 URM male mentors and 2 URM female mentors. Upon conclusion of the summer camp all of the student mentors were asked to participate in an open-ended survey that inquired about their experiences as student-mentors. The research questions guiding this study were: What role does race and gender have on the development of student mentor relationships? What are the implications of those mentor relationships on STEM identity development of the student-mentors? These research questions were answered through the use of thematic analysis, yielding two main themes: 1) barriers and connections associated with race and gender and 2) development of role identity - specifically the sub-constructs of performance/competence and interest. The results of this study suggest that engaging in mentoring relationships, while motivated by altruistic desires, strengthened STEM role identity development. Previous literature has demonstrated that salient STEM identity development can contribute to persistence in these fields. Promoting engagement in mentoring opportunities, like summer camps, could aid in increasing and sustaining URM STEM majors.

Ross, M. S., & Fletcher, T. L., & Thamotharan, V., & Garcia, A. (2018, June), I Lead, Therefore I Am: The Impact of Student-mentor Leadership Opportunities on STEM Identity Development and Sustainability Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30589

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