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Racial Inequality Exists In Spite Of Overrepresentation: The Case Of Asian American Students In Engineering Education

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Conference

2009 Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

New Research on Retention of URM Groups in STEM

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

Page Count

11

Page Numbers

14.1002.1 - 14.1002.11

DOI

10.18260/1-2--4780

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/4780

Download Count

52

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Paper Authors

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Deborah Trytten University of Oklahoma

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Deborah A. Trytten is an Associate Professor in the School of Computer Science at the University of Oklahoma.

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Anna Wong Lowe University of Oklahoma

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Anna Wong Lowe is a doctoral candidate in Communication at the University of Oklahoma. Her research speciality is in Asian American identity and whiteness.

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Susan Walden University of Oklahoma

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Susan E. Walden is the Associate Director of the Sooner Engineering EDucation (SEED) Center in the College of Engineering at the University of Oklahoma.

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Abstract
NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Racial Inequality Exists in Spite of Over-Representation: The Case of Asian American Students in Engineering Education Abstract

While Asian American students are not under-represented in engineering, they are still members of a minority population. In the last three years we interviewed 165 engineering students in a large scale research project that identifies factors leading to differential rates of student success among four minority populations including Asian Americans. The Asian American participants reported experiences with racially-based discrimination that were related to the most common stereotypes of Asians, including forever foreigners and the model minority. Participants’ response to discrimination experiences were usually denying that the experience had happened, dismissing their feelings, and making excuses for inappropriate racially-based behavior. The failure to recognize the experiences could be the result of low levels of racial identity development. Dismissing feelings and making excuses for racially-based behavior may be participants living out one aspect of the model minority stereotype. The message from the Asian American participants is that over-representation does not remove racially-based stereotyping and discrimination in our society. Five recommendations for making engineering institutions more equitable are presented.

Introduction

Under-representation of minority groups in engineering endangers our society’s ability to recruit a sufficiently large population of engineers1, it robs engineering of the unique perspectives that a diverse talent pool can provide2, and is socially unjust. However, solving the problem of under- representation may not remove racial inequality from engineering education. While Asian American students are not under-represented in engineering, they are still members of a minority population and face both discrimination and stereotyping. Since they are not under-represented in engineering, they may have reduced social support infrastructure (scholarships, ethnically/racially specific technical societies, support staff), and encounter less understanding of their minority status. Asian American students also have to negotiate the double edged sword of stereotypes that are superficially positive, such as the model minority stereotype.

This work will explore racially-based discrimination experiences related to stereotyping from a population of Asian American engineering students. Our hope in presenting these experiences is to allow engineering faculty to understand the impact of being a minority, independent of equitable representation.

Research Methodology

In the last three years we have interviewed 165 engineering students in an large scale funded research project (NSF DUE-0431642) that identifies factors leading to differential rates of student success among four minority populations: African Americans, Hispanic Americans,

Trytten, D., & Wong Lowe, A., & Walden, S. (2009, June), Racial Inequality Exists In Spite Of Overrepresentation: The Case Of Asian American Students In Engineering Education Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4780

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