Howard University and Florida International University plan a large, empirical, three year collaborative research study with partners Prairie View A&M University and University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez. The proposed research will consider persistence and identity factors in undergraduate engineering education of students at these four Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). That is, the researchers will examine the impact of students' culture and ethnicity on the development of engineering identity and the importance of previously identified persistence factors (i.e., self-confidence, attitudes toward engineering, quality of instruction, etc.) on minority student attrition in institutions where they are the majority. This project seeks to address short-comings of the Academic Pathways Study, which included two of the PIs as members of the research team.
Retention theory and social cognitive career theory provide the theoretical underpinnings of the study and the team will explore their evolution and current status relative to student experiences. The project team will utilize a triangulated mixed methods research design to collect and analyze data. That is, surveys will be used to collect quantitative data and a mix of individual and focus group interviews will provide qualitative data. The project directly addresses broadening participation in engineering education with a unique focus on (1) identifying how environmental factors at MSIs versus Predominately White Institutions contribute to academic and career outcomes for minority students and (2) determining potential differences in outcomes among Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), among Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) and between HSIs and HBCUs.
The proposed work has the potential to influence how scholars approach the study of ethnic minority students, as well as how they conceptualize and study MSIs, settings that often are marginalized in the study of college students. The fact that MSIs produce a substantial proportion of Black and Hispanic STEM degrees increases the relevance and potential impact of this work. In a broader sense this project considers the relevance of context in student achievement and persistence in STEM, which is a significant issue in the education of all students.