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Social Support: How Hispanic and Black Engineering Students Perceive the Support of Peers, Family, and Faculty

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

It Takes a Village: Engineering Beyond the Classroom

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1073.1 - 23.1073.18



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Paper Authors


Lorraine N. Fleming Howard University

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Lorraine Fleming is a professor of civil engineering at Howard University. She has spearheaded a number of research and intervention initiatives to attract and retain underrepresented minorities, particularly African Americans, in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines and to improving the quality of engineering education for undergraduates. She is a Carnegie Scholar and a fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

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Inez N. Moore Howard University

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Inez Moore, M.Ed. is a Doctoral Student in the Educational Psychology Program at Howard University in Washington, DC. Currently, Inez is a Graduate Assistant for the Howard University Science, Engineering, and Mathematics (HUSEM) program. There, she engages in research focusing on STEM education and issues surrounding retention. Her research interests include college access, STEM education and retention, ethnicity and culture, achievement, and human subjects protection.

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Dawn G. Williams Howard University

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Dawn Williams is an Associate Professor and Chairperson of the Department of Educational Administration and Policy at Howard University.

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Leonard Bernard Bliss


Kalynda Chivon Smith Howard University

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Dr. Kalynda Smith is a social psychologist and Research Associate in the Civil Engineering Department at Howard University. Dr. Smith has conducted research involving gender role stereotypes, cognition, and the academic achievement of African American students. She is currently working on a longitudinal study that is investigating the academic pathways African American undergraduate engineering students take throughout their academic careers. Dr. Smith's research interests include the academic achievement of African American students in the STEM disciplines, development of the self among pre-adolescents, and the impact various forms of media has on students' academic achievement.

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Topic: New Research and Trends Related to Underrepresented Minorities in Engineering Ethnic and Gender Differences in Support Systems: How Hispanic and Black Engineering Students Value the Support of Peers, Family, and FacultyResearch on minority and gender differences in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering,Mathematics) education continues to suggest that underrepresented students face uniquechallenges when navigating post-secondary education. Higher attrition rates for women andminorities in engineering compared to other STEM fields suggests that engineering continues tolag behind other STEM disciplines in ethnic and gender diversity. Although much of the researchon this topic concentrates on the experiences of minority students at Predominately WhiteInstitutions (PWIs), little research touches on the experiences of minority students at Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs). Current research suggests that unparalleled social supports systemsexist among MSIs that may be linked to increased degree completion for underrepresentedstudents in engineering majors. This paper aims to explore how the social support systems ofunderrepresented students mitigate their decisions to persist in engineering.Many researchers agree that social support systems have some influence on student persistencein higher education. However, few researchers have discussed the relationship between socialsupport systems and educational persistence among Black and Hispanic students at MSIs;particularly those students who major in engineering. The study asks four main researchquestions regarding the career and educational support of peers, family, and faculty: (1) To whatdegree do Black and Hispanics students value their support systems? (2) In what ways do Blackand Hispanic students come to value this support? (3) How do Black and Hispanic studentsperceive the expectations of their support systems? (4) Are Black and Hispanic engineeringstudents willing to meet these expectations?The current study draws on the experiences of engineering students at four MSIs including twoHistorically Black Universities (HBCUs) and two Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs). UsingTinto’s Theory of Retention, two survey instruments were designed to illicit responses regardingengineering persistence. Additionally, a semi-structured interview protocol was developed tocollect qualitative data on students’ value of support, perceived expectations, and generalthoughts regarding social support systems’ influence on students’ engineering persistence.Preliminary results show that both Black and Hispanic students highly value the educational andcareer support of their families and faculty. However, much fewer Black and Hispanic studentsvalue the educational and career support of their classmates and friends. Further comparativeanalysis focused on ethnic, gender, nationality, university, and performance differences.Limitations, implications, and direction for future research are discussed.

Fleming, L. N., & Moore, I. N., & Williams, D. G., & Bliss, L. B., & Smith, K. C. (2013, June), Social Support: How Hispanic and Black Engineering Students Perceive the Support of Peers, Family, and Faculty Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22458

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