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Students’ Experiences of Unfairness in Graduate Engineering Education

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2021 CoNECD


Virtual - 1pm to 5pm Eastern Time Each Day

Publication Date

January 24, 2021

Start Date

January 24, 2021

End Date

January 28, 2021

Conference Session

CoNECD Session : Day 3 Slot 6 Technical Session 2

Tagged Topics

Diversity and CoNECD Paper Submissions

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Paper Authors


Matthew Bahnson North Carolina State University at Raleigh Orcid 16x16

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Matthew Bahnson is a doctoral student at North Carolina State University in Applied Social and Community Psychology. His research interests include engineering identity, equity, diversity, bias and discrimination, stereotypes, and STEM education. He works with Dr. Mary Wyer at NCSU and Dr. Adam Kirn at the University of Nevada, Reno.

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Derrick James Satterfield University of Nevada, Reno

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Derrick Satterfield is a Ph.D. student in Engineering Education at the
University of Nevada, Reno. He graduated with his Masters in 2019 from the University of Nevada, Reno,
and plans to pursue a career in academia in the future. His research interests are in graduate student
attrition rates within academia, engineering identity development, and factors that influence decision making on persistence.

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Adam Kirn University of Nevada, Reno Orcid 16x16

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Adam Kirn is an Associate Professor of Engineering Education at the University of Nevada, Reno. His research focuses on the interactions between engineering cultures, student motivation, and learning experiences. His projects involve the study of student perceptions, beliefs and attitudes towards becoming engineers, their problem-solving processes, and cultural fit. His education includes a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, an M.S. in Bioengineering, and a Ph.D. in Engineering and Science Education from Clemson University.

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Title: Students’ Experiences of Unfairness in Graduate Engineering Education Keywords: Graduate; Race/Ethnicity; Gender; LGBTQIA+; Engineering

A pilot survey to develop a measure of bias and discrimination experienced by engineering doctoral students asked if they have been treated unfairly by their primary advisor, secondary advisor, and other faculty. Analyses of pilot data reveal Women, Students of Color, and sexual minorities perceived experiences of unfair treatment in intricate patterns. Post hoc analyses show Women experience more unfair treatment than men. Race/ethnicity identity groups report different levels of unfair treatment while Students of Color generally report more than white students. Being a sexual minority contributes to reporting unfair treatment. Unfair treatment from faculty significantly predicts students changing and considering changing research labs when controlling for gender, race/ethnicity, and sexuality. Similarly, unfair treatment from faculty significantly impacts engineering identity when controlling for gender, race/ethnicity, sexuality, lab changers, and change considerers. Analyses of pilot data demonstrate the negative impact of unfair treatment on students and their development as engineers. These analyses inform a survey with a national sample of engineering graduate students. The resulting survey will assist in identifying changes needed to promote gender and race/ethnicity equity and justice in engineering as a field. Further, these findings may inform similar research and intervention in other STEM fields.

Bahnson, M., & Satterfield, D. J., & Kirn, A. (2021, January), Students’ Experiences of Unfairness in Graduate Engineering Education Paper presented at 2021 CoNECD, Virtual - 1pm to 5pm Eastern Time Each Day .

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