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STEM Success Stories: Strategies for Women and Minorities to Thrive, Not Just Survive, in Engineering

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2018 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity Conference


Crystal City, Virginia

Publication Date

April 29, 2018

Start Date

April 29, 2018

End Date

May 2, 2018

Conference Session

Undergraduate Track - Technical Session VII

Tagged Topics

Diversity and Undergraduate Education

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Paper Authors


Carlotta A. Berry Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Dr. Carlotta A. Berry is an associate professor in the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. She is the director of the multidisciplinary minor in robotics and co-director of the Rose building undergraduate diversity scholarship and professional development program. She has been the President of the Technical Editor Board for the ASEE Computers in Education Journal since 2012. She is a member of ASEE, IEEE, NSBE, and Eta Kappa Nu.

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Janice Fenn Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Janice Fenn is Director of the Center for Diversity at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, and founder of the Professional Resources Organization, Inc., a consulting firm that provides innovative seminars and training tools to enhance Diversity & Inclusion, Employee Development. Inclusive Leadership and Mentoring. Ms. Fenn’s corporate experience includes Senior Director of Global Diversity for Kraft Foods, and positions in human resources and diversity at Sara Lee Corporation and Quaker Oats. Ms. Fenn is co–author of the book Do You See What I See?; creator of the Development Ladder Game™ and the Diversity Fairy Tale Series. Ms. Fenn has been featured in Ebony, Jet, DiversityInc, Wal–Mart’s Profiles in Pride, the Black Success Guide. Ms. Fenn holds both BS and MS degrees in Biology from Tuskegee University, and an MBA from Purdue University’s Krannert School of Business.

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There are many research studies on women and minorities in STEM focusing on increasing interest at a young age, increasing the pipeline, diversifying pathways, identifying success and retention strategies, and preparing for an engineering career. This paper attempts to add to that body of work by exploring what these students need to be successful upon entering their college study. We present a unique perspective based on interviews with 10 recent STEM graduates from a top-rated engineering program. This paper focuses on their success stories, and their pathway to surviving and thriving in a campus environment with limited diversity. This study was completed at a small private engineering institution in the Midwest with an approximate enrollment of 2300, 25% of which are women and less than 8% underrepresented students of color. Such a small diverse population presents special challenges for students from diverse backgrounds. With limited opportunities to see or connect with others like themselves, it is challenging to experience a sense of belonging, community, support or mentorship. This may be exacerbated by inadequate academic preparation and minimal information on what to expect on campus. These ten recent graduates shared information on their backgrounds, experiences and their advice to other aspiring students from diverse backgrounds. The students were diverse based on their gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic background or first generation college status. The interviews revealed the critical resources, coping mechanisms and strategies embraced by these students. This paper will present the results of these interviews, lessons learned, and helpful insights to be utilized by stakeholders to recruit, develop and retain diverse students, and by diverse students entering their STEM field of study.

Berry, C. A., & Fenn, J. (2018, April), STEM Success Stories: Strategies for Women and Minorities to Thrive, Not Just Survive, in Engineering Paper presented at 2018 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity Conference, Crystal City, Virginia. 10.18260/1-2--29578

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