Intellectual Merit: This research study focuses on critically examining and tracing the career pathways of successful African American male college students who have opted to pursue IT-related careers. Grounded in the theory of power and practice posited by Pierre Bourdieu, the study uncovers the practical logics that African American men employ when making career choices to pursue IT-related disciplines. The sample consists of 100 African American male students who have expressed interest in IT careers and who are currently enrolled at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). A small sample of African American men at Predominantly White Institutions is also included. The researchers use a critical interpretive approach in which concepts of capital, field and habitus are employed as a framework to build and verify midrange theories about this historically underserved group's engagement with IT by focusing on group-level experiences that influence their decision to pursue an IT career. The research includes conducting person-centered analysis that is well grounded in theory and employs rigorous qualitative approaches. The proposed work contributes to the limited literature on African American men's academic success and helps clarify some of the mixed and contradictory findings about their career choices that exist in the current literature.

Broader Impacts: The results of this research reveal how and which social structures enable or constrain African American men's IT-related career choices; information which may be useful to policy makers, teachers and school counselors, and that may inform the creation of innovative interventions. Findings may also contribute to the increase in the STEM workforce while expanding the career options for African American men who are historically disproportionately affected by economic downturns. The research continues a collaboration between Washington State University and Pennsylvania State University as well as strengthens ongoing partnerships with the four participating HBCUs.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Human Resource Development (HRD)
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Jolene Jesse
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Pennsylvania State University
University Park
United States
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