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Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering
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Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering

DOI: 10.1615/JWomenMinorScienEng.2020024994
pages 93-124


Bruk Berhane
School of Universal Computing, Construction, and Engineering Education, STEM Transformation Institute, Florida International University, Miami, Florida 33199, USA
Stephen Secules
Florida International University
Felicia Onuma
Department of Counseling, Higher Education, and Special Education, College of Education, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20742, USA


Research on engineering identity has often been conceptualized independent of racial identity, presumably because the engineering discipline does not place explicit value on nondisciplinary or nonacademic dimensions of the student experience. This article seeks to address this gap in the literature by exploring the degree to which the racial and ethnic identities of five Black men, who are engineering transfer students, influenced their precollege and collegiate trajectories. Drawing from various conceptual frameworks or theories across multiple disciplines, we explore the ways in which our participants' perceptions of race undergirded their pathways toward engineering degrees. In addition, our data attempts to unpack within-group differences among our interviewees and the ways in which these differences may have impacted their own senses of "Blackness" in engineering. Findings reveal somewhat significant variations in participants' propensities to identify as Black. For instance, some Black American participants described disconcerting racialized experiences, and noted being incentivized to persist in engineering to increase the representation of Blacks in the field. On the other hand, Black African respondents expressed stronger cultural/ethnic affinities, rarely described their experiences through the lens of race, and tended to reference cultural or linguistic challenges that they faced as immigrant students. Implications for practice include a call for campus-sponsored programs to provide students with the agency to develop their own affinity spaces that most closely align with their values, identities, and experiences. Implications for research include the need for more racial, ethnic, and/or cultural identity-based studies in engineering education scholarship.


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