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Using Social Networking Web Sites To Increase Success Of Underrepresented Minorities In Science And Engineering Programs

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Marketing Engineering as a Career Path to URMs

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.1331.1 - 14.1331.8



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Paper Authors

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David Delaine Drexel University

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Adam Fontecchio Drexel University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Social Networking Websites for Increased Success of Underrepresented Minorities in Science and Engineering Programs


Social networking websites provide an environment for underrepresented populations to discuss participation in science and engineering (S&E) education. These demographics are often hesitant to pursue advanced degrees due to limited awareness of the graduate process and a lack of mentors, among other factors. In this work, Facebook (, the second largest social network on the web, is used as a platform for increased support and guidance in minority participation programs. The National Science Foundation (NSF) Bridge to the Doctorate Fellowship (BTD) within the Philadelphia region is used as a test case. This social network provides a non-threatening, peer-developed setting where students can openly discuss topics ranging from everyday issues such as study techniques and skills to topics that often have a limited voice, including cultural differences and their impact on graduate life. Through open format discussion boards, academic advice on fellowship opportunities, publishing papers, networking and stress-relief activities is easily exchanged. With the increased popularity of social networking websites the information presented can serve the retention and awareness efforts of the BTD program and address the uneven participation of underrepresented groups in S&E fields in general.


Students of Latino, African-American and Native American descent are not entering school and obtaining degrees within science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields in proportion to other demographics1,2. There are many reasons why these students are not choosing to study STEM fields, including inadequate access to a quality K-12 education, negative stereotypes, lack of role models and mentors, limited knowledge about these fields, lack of confidence in abilities, and the digital divide among others.1,2,3,4,5. Another area in which minorities suffer within graduate school is with cultural capital and congruity. The literature reports that an education system develops a culture similar to its society’s dominant culture. In order to successfully navigate the education system a level of familiarity with that culture is necessary3. For minority students, especially Latinos, such unfamiliarity can cause many issues, create discomfort and discourage students from participation.

These disparities in participation manifest themselves through all levels of education, starting within pre-collegiate institutions and transgressing through academia and industry. In K-12 education, significant gaps exist in mathematics between white students and minority students. The National Science Board Science and Engineering Indicators 2008 states the average mathematics scores of black fifth graders are equivalent to the average third grade score of white students2. In degrees of higher education, minority students make up approximately 15% of all S&E bachelors and masters degrees although they make up a much larger percentage of the total degree population2. African Americans account for 5.3% of STEM field doctoral degrees while

Delaine, D., & Fontecchio, A. (2009, June), Using Social Networking Web Sites To Increase Success Of Underrepresented Minorities In Science And Engineering Programs Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5846

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