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Motivating Factors for Choosing Engineering as Reported by Racial and Ethnic Minority Students

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Fundamental: K-12 Students' Beliefs, Motivation, and Self-efficacy

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1170.1 - 26.1170.10



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Paper Authors


Randa L. Shehab University of Oklahoma

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Dr. Randa L. Shehab is a professor and the Director of the School of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University of Oklahoma. She was recently appointed as Director of the Sooner Engineering Education Center dedicated to engineering education related initiatives and research focused on building diversity and enhancing the educational experience for all engineering students. Dr. Shehab teaches undergraduate and graduate level courses in ergonomics, work methods, experimental design, and statistical analysis. Her current research is with the Research Institute for STEM Education, a multi-disciplinary research group investigating factors related to equity and diversity in engineering student populations.

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Susan E. Walden University of Oklahoma Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Susan E. Walden is the founding Director of the Research Institute for STEM Education (RISE) and an associate research professor in the Dean's office of the College of Engineering (CoE). She is also a founding member of the Sooner Engineering Education (SEED) Center.

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Emily Elizabeth Wellborn University of Oklahoma

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Motivating Factors for Choosing Engineering as Reported by Racial and Ethnic Minority Students (Fundamental)It is a long time goal of the science, engineering, technology, and math communities to diversifythe demographic composition of these fields in order to improve solutions to today’s technicaland social problems. We examined the pre-college factors that motivated racial and ethnicminority students to pursue a major in engineering and how these factors related to personal orprofessional goals. A set of over 150 semi-structured interviews with African American, AsianAmerican, Hispanic American, and Native American engineering students was analyzed todetermine what influenced each of the students to enter engineering. For this analysis, a pair ofundergraduate research assistants applied an iterative-inductive coding process to identifyindividual factors and trends. Trends related to Social Cognitive Career Theory emerged but withvariances both within each minority group and across the four groups.Social Cognitive Career Theory associates career choice with an individual's self-efficacy in thatfield, interests that align with the field, and outcome expectations congruent with the career orthe path to reach the career. Furthermore, the theory posits that self-efficacy is enhanced orundermined by social supports and barriers that are present as the choice is made and re-madealong the path toward the career. From this interview set, we found that engineering self-efficacydid not figure strongly in the students' choices of pursuing an engineering major and career. Forresearch participants across the four minority groups, interests and social supports were highlyinfluential. Outcome expectations, as related to employment prospects, were also highlyinfluential for Asian American students, though only moderately influential for the other threegroups of students.This paper will provide a detailed examination of the differential trends within and across groupsand recommend strategies to consider for encouraging young racial and ethnic minority studentstoward future careers in engineering.

Shehab, R. L., & Walden, S. E., & Wellborn, E. E. (2015, June), Motivating Factors for Choosing Engineering as Reported by Racial and Ethnic Minority Students Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24507

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