New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
Minorities in Engineering
The underrepresentation of Black men in engineering highlights a missing segment of the population who could contribute to the knowledge economy. Increases in Black male engineers could aid in increased numbers of Black faculty members – and in general, role models – who could teach and inspire future generations of students in STEM. To address this national concern, however, stakeholders need to identify prevailing issues, for example, racial microaggressions, and where they occur. Racial microaggressions are sometimes described as [subtle] comments or behaviors that add psychological stress to the recipient. By addressing the practices and activities that are turning students away from sustained participation in engineering, we may be able to increase the number of Blacks males who enroll, remain in, and graduate from engineering programs.
Literature and Theory
In engineering fields, students’ experiences with research, and their relationships with the faculty advisor and peers, appear to be most germane to shaping students’ learning, their professional identity, and graduate experiences. Because of the important role of interactions with others in educational contexts, sociocultural learning perspectives provide the theoretical framework used in this study. From a sociocultural perspective, learning occurs through the co-construction of knowledge and interactions with others within a given community of practice.
Drawing on sociocultural learning perspectives, the following research questions guide this study: 1) What do racial microaggressions look like in a domain-specific context like engineering? 2) In what engineering-specific contexts are they taking place?
Data includes interviews from eleven Black male participants from a large Midwestern research institution; interviews semi-structured, and lasted at least one-hour. Participants were asked questions about their collegiate background, doctoral experiences, and identification with and intentions to remain in engineering. Audio recordings were transcribed verbatim. Grounded theory techniques were used to analyze data.
Findings from this study illustrate that some Black male students deal with racial microaggressions that threaten their understandings of their professional identity as engineers and – in part – influence their decisions whether or not to persist in engineering. Some students described receiving racial microaggressions across the College of Engineering context (e.g., advisors, peers in their research group and classrooms). The outcomes of receiving these perceived threatening comments and behaviors made students feel less comfortable in their field of study. Further, students expressed exhaustion from having to negotiate and navigate their unwelcoming academic space.
The findings in this study provide a clearer understanding of racial microaggressions from an engineering perspective. This new scholarship will better inform engineering faculty, staff, administrators, and peers who interact with diverse students. Improving the nature of interactions by being more mindful of how we racially microaggress, and addressing the systems that allow these behavior to continue, we may make engineering a more welcoming field of study.
Burt, B. A., & McKen, A. S., & Burkhart, J. A., & Hormell, J., & Knight, A. J. (2016, June), Racial Microaggressions within the Advisor-advisee Relationship: Implications for Engineering Research, Policy, and Practice Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26029
ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2016 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015