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To Be or Not To Be: A Dialogic Discussion of Two Researchers' Hidden and Transitioning Identities

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2019 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity


Crystal City, Virginia

Publication Date

April 14, 2019

Start Date

April 14, 2019

End Date

April 22, 2019

Conference Session

Track : Special Topics - Identity Technical Session 8

Tagged Topics

Diversity and Special Topic: Identity

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Paper Authors


Stephen Secules Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Stephen is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue. He has a prior academic and professional background in engineering, having worked professionally as an acoustical engineer. His research focuses on equity and inclusion in undergraduate engineering education. He uses critical qualitative and ethnographic methodologies to investigate and improve engineering classroom culture. He is also interested interested in framings of co-curricular student support that center intersectionality and liberation.

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Cassandra J. Groen-McCall Virginia Tech

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Dr. Cassandra McCall is a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. Her primary research interests include professional identity formation in undergraduate civil engineering students, grounded theory methods, and theory development. Her current work includes the exploration of professional identity formation in civil engineering students who experience disabilities and the ways in which this identity is influenced by students’ academic relationships, events, and experiences. Dr. McCall holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in Civil Engineering from the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology.

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Since its inaugural conference last year, CoNECD has established an emerging community that brings the exploration of diversity and inclusion to the forefront of engineering education, particularly for hidden-but-salient identity dimensions such as sexual orientation, disability, and first generation status. As researchers, we often think about these categories as student populations to be studied and of ourselves as outside or beyond these populations. However, frameworks such as identity and intersectionality theory remind us that all educational stakeholders - including researchers - also maintain multiple identity dimensions. While researchers with normative and privileged identities typically do not have to think about the influence of their own identity dimensions on their research, they still embody and interact within these dimensions at all times.

We, the two co-authors of this paper, are engineering education researchers who hold partially hidden or less-apparent identities (i.e., LGBTQ and disabled). However, these identities were transitioned into during our adult professional lives, thus prompting significant reflection about those dimensions and how they inform our work and relationship to society, broadly. As education researchers with hidden identities, we also make constant choices regarding passing and disclosure during our research activities, and often must grapple with how to maintain both transparency and safety regarding our positionality.

In this dialogic paper, we each draw on our own experiences while conducting engineering education research with hidden and transitioning identities and the many dimensions of our work they impact. From this work, we draw conclusions for making education research more inclusive, for appreciating the many taken-for-granted areas of identity impacts on research, and for increasing all researchers’ awareness of their identity and positionality.

Secules, S., & Groen-McCall, C. J. (2019, April), To Be or Not To Be: A Dialogic Discussion of Two Researchers' Hidden and Transitioning Identities Paper presented at 2019 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity , Crystal City, Virginia.

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