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Intersectional Complexities of Race/Ethnicity and Gender in Engineering Students’ Professional Social Responsibility Attitudes (Research)

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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

Minorities in Engineering Division Technical Session 7

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

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Angela R. Bielefeldt University of Colorado Boulder

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Angela Bielefeldt is a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering (CEAE) and Director for the Engineering Plus program. She has served as the Associate Chair for Undergraduate Education in the CEAE Department, as well as the ABET assessment coordinator. Professor Bielefeldt was also the faculty director of the Sustainable By Design Residential Academic Program, a living-learning community where students learned about and practice sustainability. Bielefeldt is also a licensed P.E. Professor Bielefeldt's research interests in engineering education include service-learning, sustainable engineering, social responsibility, ethics, and diversity.

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This research examined the professional social responsibility attitudes among engineering students from different demographic groups based on intersectional categories of race/ethnicity and gender. A survey instrument measured the students’ attitudes toward professional connectedness (PC), a sense that engineers should apply their skills to help others, using 19 items with a 7-point Likert-type response scale. A key methodological inconsistency in the dataset was how students were allowed to report their race/ethnicity in the demographic question at the end of the survey: 1088 students selected a single race/ethnicity category, while 2305 students could identify multiple racial/ethnic categories. The results show that constraining students to select a single race/ethnicity likely fails to accurately reflect the multiracial identities of many students. For example, the percentage of students in the 2014 survey who checked multiple race/ethnicity categories included 90% of Native Americans, 54% of African Americans, 35% of Hispanics, 21% of Asians, and 8% of non-Hispanic whites. Consideration of multiracial identities is therefore very salient. The strongest professional connectedness attitudes were identified among female African American and female Hispanic students (average PC ~5.6 compared to White males 5.0). If these underrepresented female students persist to work as engineers after graduation, they may bring different feelings about their responsibility to serve society into their work as compared to majority White males. However, goal congruity theory predicts they may be at greater risk for leaving engineering if they do not perceive that engineering work helps others.

Bielefeldt, A. R. (2021, July), Intersectional Complexities of Race/Ethnicity and Gender in Engineering Students’ Professional Social Responsibility Attitudes (Research) Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--37375

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