June 15, 2019
June 15, 2019
June 19, 2019
Liberal Education/Engineering & Society
Despite increased efforts to diversify the field of engineering, women and minorities remain underrepresented in the profession. Studies of engineering culture highlight how the persistence of women and minorities is linked to norms and assumptions of engineering cultures (e.g., Fouad et al. 2016, Singh et al., 2018). For example, some engineering cultures have been characterized as masculine, leading women to feel that they must become ‘one of the guys’ to fit in and be successful (e.g., Faulkner, 2009). In the U.S., engineering cultures are also predominantly white, which can make people of color feel unwelcome or isolated (Long & Mejia, 2016). When individuals feel unwelcome in engineering cultures, they are likely to leave. Thus, engineering culture plays an important role in shaping who participates and persists in engineering education and practice.
Likewise, disciplinary cultures in engineering education also carry assumptions about what resources students should possess and utilize throughout their professional development. For example, educational cultures may assume students possess certain forms of ‘academic capital,’ such as rigorous training in STEM subjects prior to college. They might also assume students possess ‘navigational capital,’ or the ability to locate and access resources in the university system. However, these cultural assumptions have implications for the diversity and inclusivity of educational environments, as they shape what kinds of students are likely to succeed. For instance, first generation college (FGC) students may not possess the same navigational capital as continuing generation students (Long & Mejia, 2016). Under-represented minority (URM) students often receive less pre-college training in STEM than their white counterparts (MacPhee et al., 2013). However, FGC and URM students possess many forms of capital that often are unrecognized by education systems (i.e. linguistic capital, or the ability to speak in multiple languages or styles) (Yosso, 2005; Dika & Martin 2018). Educational cultures that assume everyone possesses the same kinds of capital (i.e. that of white, American, high SES, and continuing generation students) construct barriers for students from diverse backgrounds. Thus, we propose that examining culture is essential for understanding the underlying assumptions and beliefs that give rise to the challenging issues surrounding the lack of diversity and inclusion in engineering.
This case study examines the culture of a biomedical engineering (BME) program at a large Midwestern university and its underlying assumptions regarding what sources of cultural and social capital undergraduate students need to be successful. Eighteen BME students were interviewed, and the data were thematically analyzed by the first author. By tracing when and how students draw upon these forms of capital during their professional development, we discuss the implications for students from diverse backgrounds, particularly FGC and URM students.
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S.L. Dika and J.P. Martin, “Bridge to persistence: Interactions with educators as social capital for Latina/o engineering majors,” Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, vol. 17, no. 3, pp. 202-215.
Corple, D., & Zoltowski, C. B., & Eddington, S., & Brightman, A. O., & Buzzanell, P. M. (2019, June), What You Need to Succeed: Examining Culture and Capital in Biomedical Engineering Undergraduate Education Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. https://peer.asee.org/33556
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