NSF EHR Core: Women & Minorities in Engineering

NSF EHR Core (#1432297): The Effects of Social Capital and Cultural Models on the Retention and Degree Attainment of Women and Minority Engineering Undergraduates

Principal Investigator: Gladis Kersaint, Ph.D., Dean, Neag School of Education, University of Connecticut
Co-Principal Investigators: Chrystal A. S. Smith, Ph.D., Department of Anthropology, University of Connecticut
              George MacDonald, Ph.D., College of Education, University of South Florida
              Hesborn Wao, Ph.D. College of Education,University of South Florida
              Reginald Lee, M.A., College of Education, University of South Florida
Postdoctoral Scholar: Rebecca A. Campbell-Montalvo, Ph.D. Neag School of Education, University of Connecticut

The purpose of this study is to broaden our understanding about how social capital and cultural models of engineering success (CMES) contribute to the retention and degree attainment of women and minority engineering undergraduates, traditionally under-represented in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Social capital refers to the social connections of students and the resources available through those connections. CMES refer to beliefs about how to succeed in an engineering program (i.e. degree attainment.) We hypothesize that women and minority undergraduates who succeed in engineering programs are more likely to 1) enter with and acquire/develop various forms/levels of the social capital and 2) resolve conflicts between their CMES and the culture espoused by the program.

Guided by sociological and cognitive anthropological frameworks, we employ a partially mixed concurrent dominant status design (Leech & Onwuegbuzie, 2009) in which both quantitative  and qualitative (two rounds of interviews) data are collected concurrently to measure the relationship between social capital and CMES and their association with the retention of women and minorities. In this five year longitudinal study, we administered five online surveys with open-ended items annually to a cohort of engineering undergraduates recruited from 10 colleges of engineering. We also conducted two round of interviews with a subsample of women and minorities who responded to the survey. The interviews were conducted in their second and fourth years in person and via videoconference. Our important “pipeline” outcome variables are: 1) the decision to pursue engineering undergraduate degrees and 2) retention to the fourth year of the degree program. Our research goal is to identify the effects of social capital and CMES on the retention and degree attainment of women and minorities in engineering, and examine the relationship between social capital and CMES.

Our most recent publication:

Skvoretz, John, Kersaint, Gladis, Campbell-Montelvo, Rebecca, Ware, Jonathan D., SmithChrystal A. S., Puccia, Ellen, Martin, Julie P., Lee, MacDonald, George & Wao, Hesborn. (2019). Pursuing an Engineering Major: Social Capital of Women and Underrepresented MinoritiesStudies in Higher Educationhttps://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2019.1609923