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Qualitative Study of First-Generation Latinas: Understanding Motivation for Choosing and Persisting in Engineering

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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

Interest and Movitation: Formulating New Paradigms to Increase URM Participation in Engineering

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1291.1 - 26.1291.19



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Paper Authors


Dina Verdin Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Graduated with my B.S. in Industrial and Systems Engineering from San Jose State University. Currently, I am a Ph.D. student in Engineering Education at Purdue University.

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Allison Godwin Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Allison Godwin, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Engineering Education at Purdue University. Her research focuses on increasing female enrollment in engineering, how students’ attitudes and beliefs affect their choices and their learning, and how to improve engineering education for all students – especially those from underrepresented groups. Dr. Godwin graduated from Clemson University with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and Ph.D. in Engineering and Science Education. She is the recipient of a 2014 American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Educational Research and Methods Division Apprentice Faculty Grant. She also was an NSF Graduate Research Fellow for her work on female empowerment in engineering which won the National Association for Research in Science Teaching 2015 Outstanding Doctoral Research Award.

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Jennifer Lynne Morazes Brandeis University

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Dr. Jennifer Lynne Morazes currently serves as the Director of Student Support Services at Brandeis University, where she oversees an initiative supporting 150 first-generation and low-income students. In her previous role as Educational Counselor and Adjunct Faculty at San Jose State University, she founded the GENERATE initiative which was featured in the Chronicle of Higher Education Diversity in Academe 2013 Issue. Her research on first-generation college students considers the role of stressful circumstances on academic success. Dr. Morazes earned her PhD in Social Welfare and MSW from the University of California, Berkeley School of Social Welfare.

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Qualitative Study of First-Generation Latinas: Understanding their Motivation for Seeking an Engineering Degree AbstractOverview: Latina undergraduates pursuing an engineering degree continue to be anunderrepresented group in four-year universities. Compared to their male counterparts, fewerwomen enter the field of engineering; in addition, fewer are also retained. Furthermore, a dearthof underrepresented students such as Latino/as and first-generation college students enter orremain in the field of engineering. The need for increased gender and racial/ethnic representationin engineering is important because it allows for the production of a wider range of innovativeproducts that take into consideration different dimensions of identity. Recent studies demonstratethat Latinas who are enrolled in the field of engineering and remain in this major possess highlevels of persistence. Purpose: Due to the importance of increasing and retaining racial and genderdiversity in this important field, my research seeks to examine what motivates first-generationLatinas in engineering at an urban public university to pursue engineering and why they persist inthis field. Previous research has investigated the experiences of first-generation students broadlywithout distinguishing specific populations or their choice of study. In addition, several studiesinvestigate why first-generation and underrepresented students drop out of college; some havefound that it is due to an unclear purpose for college, adjustment issues to the college environment,and feelings of isolation. Methods: This work is novel as I seek to understand the perspective offirst-generation Latina engineering students through qualitative in-depth interviews and throughanalyzing their narratives. This research advances the field by elucidating the reasons why Latinaschoose engineering as their major and why they choose to continue in this field, using AchievementGoal Theory (AGT) as the theoretical framework. This theory presumes that goals are cognitiveaccounts a person tries to accomplish and one’s purpose or reasons for doing the task. Results:Although further research is needed to learn more about what specific strategies promotepersistence in engineering for underrepresented students, using this theoretical framework, myresearch found that participants showed a higher sense of purpose, not only in mastery andperformance, but also in a sense of self-reliance and intellectual self. Contribution: This researchserves as a point of departure towards evolving the field of engineering into a more desirable majorfor first-generation Latina women, and underrepresented women more generally.

Verdin, D., & Godwin, A., & Morazes, J. L. (2015, June), Qualitative Study of First-Generation Latinas: Understanding Motivation for Choosing and Persisting in Engineering Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24628

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