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Minority Student Experiences in Engineering Graduate Programs: Socialization and Impact on Career Trajectories

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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

Graduate Studies Division Technical Session 5

Tagged Division

Graduate Studies

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Paper Authors


Catherine T. Amelink Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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Dr. Amelink is Associate Vice Provost for Learning Systems in the Office of the Provost at Virginia Tech. She is also an affiliate faculty member in the Departments of Engineering Education and Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Virginia Tech.

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Mayra S. Artiles Arizona State University Orcid 16x16

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Mayra S. Artiles is an assistant professor in engineering at the Polytechnic School of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University. Her research expertise includes engineering doctoral education structure, experiences of underrepresented minorities in doctoral engineering programs, and doctoral student motivation and persistence. Her research methods specialty is qualitative data analysis. Prior to transitioning into engineering education, Artiles worked at Ford Motor Company as an Electrified Vehicle Thermal Engineer. She holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez, an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University, and a Ph.D. in Engineering Education from Virginia Tech.

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This paper examines the academic and social interactions during graduate engineering program enrollment among racially underrepresented doctoral and master’s students and how those interactions shape their career goals. Using socialization theory, this study explored daily interactions of students with faculty and peers, overall perceptions of fit, knowledge about the graduate school process, and opportunities for mentoring provided in the institution as well as through outside engagement during industry internships. The findings presented in this paper build upon an earlier study conducted at one university to a national research sample. Quantitative and qualitative data provide evidence that underscores the importance of having a supportive and accessible faculty advisor, the need for mentoring programs and peer groups that minority students can identify with, and the role that regular feedback and clear expectations can provide in shaping the academic and social interactions of underrepresented engineering graduate students. This national study is comprised of 109 underrepresented domestic engineering graduate students who identified themselves as African American, Black, Hispanic, or Native American. Results show that in addition to the academic and social interactions in an academic setting, internship opportunities and related interactions in industry-based settings can play an important role in shaping the career trajectories of minority graduate students enrolled in engineering programs. The findings from this study can better inform the design of diverse, inclusive, and supportive graduate communities that encourage long-term careers in engineering fields in industry and academia.

Amelink, C. T., & Artiles , M. S. (2021, July), Minority Student Experiences in Engineering Graduate Programs: Socialization and Impact on Career Trajectories Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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