About The Project

The on-going need in the United States to focus on the ever increasing national problem of producing a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) trained workforce constitutes a major concern for the current and future recruitment, retention, and graduation of minorities in these fields. This issue is particularly acute for engineering and technology disciplines.

In 2003, the percentage of African Americans and Hispanics who earned bachelor degrees in engineering were merely 4.6% and 6.2%, respectively (Chubin, May, & Babco, 2005). These statistics bear out a very disturbing but definite reality: The number of minorities entering the engineering and technology workforce is quite limited.  As minority populations continue to grow, increasing their participation in science and engineering will be critical to the health of our growing economy.  Perhaps one of the most critical areas of focus should be on minority students who show extraordinary potential and promise in science and engineering related fields.

A growing body of literature has tended to focus on the psychosocial issues African American students confront during their matriculation at post-secondary institutions.  Wenglinsky (2006) found that African American students performed better academically at predominantly Black institutions even when controlling for institutional selectivity, financial resources, size, and sponsorship. Hence, the question becomes:

  • If efforts are focused to address the needs of African American STEM students who attend Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), especially those who are academically gifted (high-achieving), would the data tell the same story? 
  • Are there institutional factors that can be identified and manipulated in a way to ensure the success of academically gifted African American students in STEM disciplines (thus the general population)? 
  • More specifically, do institutional climate, culture, and environment make a difference?

The goal of this Education Research Project is to identify factors, through a mixed methods approach utilizing both qualitative and quantitative measures that most significantly contribute to the success of academically gifted African American students in STEM disciplines that are enrolled at HBCUs.  This Project is implemented in an effort to better understand how to structure successful collegiate experiences at these institutions to increase the quantity and quality of students who graduate with STEM degrees.

The specific objectives of this project include:

  • Developing a qualitative instrument based on identified (Bonner, 2001) and emergent factors
  • Conducting a qualitative (focus groups, interviews, virtual chat) investigation
  • Developing a quantitative (web-based survey) instrument based on qualitative findings
  • Conducting a quantitative (web-based survey) investigation by disseminating instrument to STEM students in all of the 103 HBCUs in the nation
  • Disseminating findings through publications and national presentations

Intellectual Merit: This research investigation is unique in that it focuses on academically gifted minority students within minority serving institutions.  Also, unique to this investigation, students identified as academically gifted (Renzulli, 1986) will be targeted.  The few studies that have attempted to address the problem of minority under representation and underachievement in science and engineering have not specifically addressed the needs of high achieving minority students, many of whom share similar struggles as their peers who were not identified as high achievers. According to Weglinsky(2006), all institutions can profit from the patterns of success found to exist within minority serving institutions, particularly HBCUs.

Broader Impacts: The impact of this study will be far-reaching.  Many programs in the areas of STEM have sought viable solutions to the problems associated with student achievement gaps, particularly among students of color.  A study of this nature will provide concrete empirical data to identify and support viable factors that lead to student achievement, particularly for academically gifted African American students.  Programmatic initiatives, policies, and procedures can be developed and subsequently implemented using these factors as a framework.  The results of this study will be published in STEM education and minority education related journals and conferences. Additionally, targeted presentations will be given at HBCU related conferences.

 
 
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