June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
June 23, 2010
Minorities in Engineering
15.1252.1 - 15.1252.22
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED: EXPLORING FACTORS THAT INFLUENCE AFRICAN AMERICANS TO PURSUE AND COMPLETE DOCTORAL DEGREES IN ENGINEERING AND APPLIED SCIENCE DISCIPLINES
Given the devastatingly low participation and completion rates of African Americans in engineering and applied science doctoral programs, it is imperative to understand what factors influence African Americans to pursue and complete doctoral degrees in engineering and applied science disciplines. The experiences of African American doctoral degree recipients have been overshadowed by efforts to understand and remedy the underrepresentation of African Americans in engineering and applied science fields of study. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to identify factors that influence African Americans to pursue and complete doctoral degrees in engineering and applied science disciplines. Through the stories of study participants, insight into what is necessary to successfully complete graduate engineering and applied science education is documented.
Principles of Critical Race Theory (CRT), two doctoral degree persistence models, and graduate student persistence literature served as the conceptual framework for this study. In- depth and focus group interviews were conducted to learn about the factors that positively impacted the persistence of 19 African Americans who earned doctoral degrees in engineering and applied science disciplines from their lived experiences. Encouragement from others including peers, family, and professional engineers and applied scientists emerged as a significant factor influencing the decision to pursue graduate education in engineering or an applied science discipline. Participation in a summer research or internship program also impacted and solidified the decision of study participants to pursue an advanced degree. Key factors impacting doctoral degree completion included: peer support, faculty adviser support, support from university administrators, and family support. These findings were analyzed in relation to the research and higher education literature on the persistence of African Americans in graduate education.
In addition to identifying factors that influenced this group of African Americans to pursue and complete doctoral degrees in engineering and applied science disciplines, this paper serves to promote and include the expert knowledge of African American doctoral degree recipients in the scholarly discourse on the issue of low participation rates of African Americans in graduate engineering and applied science programs. Such knowledge will challenge traditional views on this issue and hopefully inspire new ways of addressing this issue. With African Americans and other minority populations growing at an exponential rate, people of color are quickly becoming the majority in key states across the nation. Therefore, it is imperative that all Americans have an opportunity to pursue graduate level degrees and to develop skills necessary to compete for professional positions in the science and engineering workforce. This mandate is required for the United States to maintain a competitive edge in the global marketplace, and to continue to make technological advances in this ever-changing world.
Simon, T. (2010, June), The Road Less Traveled: Exploring Factors That Influence African Americans To Pursue And Complete Doctoral Degrees In Engineering And Applied Science Disciplines Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16428
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