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Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering
SJR: 0.504 SNIP: 0.671 CiteScore™: 1.65

ISSN Print: 1072-8325
ISSN Online: 1940-431X

Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering

DOI: 10.1615/JWomenMinorScienEng.2011002843
pages 209-223

EXAMINING SENSE OF BELONGING AND CAMPUS RACIAL DIVERSITY EXPERIENCES AMONG WOMEN OF COLOR IN STEM LIVING-LEARNING PROGRAMS

Dawn R. Johnson
Higher Education Department, Syracuse University, 350 Huntington Hall, Syracuse, New York 13244, USA

ABSTRACT

Living-learning programs can facilitate students' sense of belonging, especially during the early stages of their college experiences. Sense of belonging is a critical factor in the adjustment and persistence of students of color in predominantly white institutions and is strongly connected to a student's campus racial diversity experiences. Many institutions have created living-learning programs to increase women's retention in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. However, little is known about whether these programs facilitate important outcomes for women of color, such as their sense of belonging and campus racial diversity experiences. Using a conceptual framework of learning community practice that identifies inclusion of diversity issues as core principles of practice (Lardner, 2005), this study examined STEM living-learning program participation, overall sense of belonging, interactions with diverse peers, and perceptions of the campus racial climate among racially/ethnically diverse women in STEM majors. Women of color reported lower participation rates in STEM living-learning programs, less strong overall sense of belonging, and more frequent interactions with racially/ethnically diverse peers than did white/Caucasian women. Black/African American women reported less positive perceptions of the campus racial climate than did women from the other racial/ethnic groups. Findings suggest that achieving a sense of belonging to their campus and having positive campus racial climate perceptions are important for women of color in STEM majors that can be facilitated, in part, by STEM living-learning programs. To engage in effective learning community practice, STEM living-learning program educators should consider the needs of racially/ethnically diverse students.