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Mechanisms by Which Indigenous Students Achieved a Sense of Belonging and Identity in Engineering Education

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Minorities in Engineering Division Technical Session 4

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

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Paper Authors


Jon A. Leydens Colorado School of Mines

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Jon A. Leydens is an associate professor in the Division of Liberal Arts and International Studies at Colorado School of Mines, USA, where he has been since 1997. Research and teaching interests include communication, social justice, and engineering education. Dr. Leydens is co-author of Engineering and Sustainable Community Development (Morgan and Claypool, 2010) and editor of Sociotechnical Communication in Engineering (Routledge, 2014). Dr. Leydens won the James F. Lufkin Award for the best conference paper—on the intersections between professional communication research and social justice—at the 2012 International Professional Communication Conference. In 2015, he won the Ronald S. Blicq Award for Distinction in Technical Communication Education from the Professional Communication Society of the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). His current research focuses on rendering visible and integrating the social justice dimensions inherent in three components of the engineering curriculum—in engineering sciences, engineering design, and humanities and social science courses. That research, conducted with co-author Juan C. Lucena, will culminate in Engineering Justice:
Transforming Engineering Education and Practice (Wiley-IEEE Press, 2017).

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Te Kipa Kepa Brian Morgan CPEng The University of Auckland

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Dr Kēpa Morgan researches decision process complexity. A seminal project on ancestral lands created the impetus to research contentious engineering projects, and resulted in the creation of the Mauri Model Decision Making Framework. Mauri Model evaluations include wastewater projects, aid project effectiveness, water catchment management, hydro development, hydraulic-fracturing, and anthropogenic disaster response. Kēpa’s work creating and applying the Mauri Model was recognised by the Institution of Professional Engineers NZ in 2016 with a Supreme Technical Award for Engineering, The Furkert Award for Sustainability. Kēpa was promoted to Fellow of IPENZ in 2010 recognising his contribution to enhancing education outcomes for Māori and Pasifika students during his decade long commitment as Associate Dean Māori for the Faculty of Engineering at The University of Auckland. Kēpa was the Fulbright Ngā Pae O Te Māramatanga Senior Scholar for New Zealand in 2016.

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Juan C. Lucena Colorado School of Mines

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Juan Lucena is Professor and Director of Humanitarian Engineering at the Colorado School of Mines (CSM). Juan obtained a Ph.D. in Science and Technology Studies (STS) from Virginia Tech and a MS in STS and BS in Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). His books include Defending the Nation: U.S. Policymaking to Create Scientists and Engineers from Sputnik to the ‘War Against Terrorism’ (University Press of America, 2005), Engineering and Sustainable Community Development (Morgan &Claypool, 2010), Engineering Education for Social Justice: Critical Explorations and Opportunities (Springer, 2013), and Engineering Justice: Transforming Engineering Education and Practice (with Jon Leydens. Wiley, 2017)

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In engineering education, programs designed to increase students from underrepresented groups encounter multiple challenges, particularly in the case of students from indigenous backgrounds. In the 1990s, the University of Auckland in New Zealand faced persistently low levels of recruitment, retention, and performance of engineering students from Māori tribes. To address these issues, the University created what would eventually be called the 5R Program: Readiness, Recruitment, Retention, Role Modeling, and Research, with the explicit goals of boosting numbers of students coming into and remaining enrolled in engineering, as well as increasing academic performance levels. Between 1998 and 2011, the 5R Program was highly successful, increasing both recruitment and retention, as well as boosting performance levels—to the point that academic performance among Māori engineering students surpassed the non-indigenous engineering student population. Some Māori students went on to complete master’s and Ph.D. programs in engineering.

Prior to 1998, Māori and Pasifika students experienced significant struggles in engineering education at The University of Auckland, so our research question focuses on the means by which such students within the 5R Program reached such high achievement levels, including what programmatic elements boosted their success. To explain and provide a conceptual framework for the mechanisms of inclusive excellence, we focus on a case study of the University of Auckland in New Zealand, using a published framework that includes six Engineering-for-Social-Justice (E4SJ) criteria.

Each E4SJ criterion raises critical questions that unveil different reasons why the 5R Program succeeded, and collectively the E4SJ criteria serve as a prism through which to view the 5R Program’s effective retention, recruitment, and performance strategies. The paper concludes with applicable lessons for recruitment and retention programs that focus on and can be adapted for students from multiple cultural and indigenous backgrounds as well as lessons for programs that work to foster the success of underrepresented students generally.

Leydens, J. A., & Morgan, T. K. K. B., & Lucena, J. C. (2017, June), Mechanisms by Which Indigenous Students Achieved a Sense of Belonging and Identity in Engineering Education Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28661

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