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Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering
SJR: 0.468 SNIP: 0.671 CiteScore™: 1.65

ISSN Imprimir: 1072-8325
ISSN On-line: 1940-431X

Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering

DOI: 10.1615/JWomenMinorScienEng.2013002354
pages 235-253


Randa Shehab
School of Industrial & Systems Engineering, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma, 73019-0390, USA
Teri J. Murphy
Department of Mathematics & Statistics, Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights, Kentucky, 41099, USA
Cindy E. Foor
Research Institute for STEM Education, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma, 73019-0390, USA


Academic areas such as science, mathematics, and engineering have been pressed to supply our technological society's ever increasing demand for an educated and skilled workforce. Attempting to broaden participation, minority and multicultural engineering programs (MEPs) operate within institutional climates transformed by post-affirmative action policies, shrinking state funding, corporate influence, and ongoing social inequality. In this paper, the MEP at the University of Oklahoma (OU) serves as a case study to observe how one institution responded to changing economic and political forces and the resulting impact on student participants. To emphasize minority while maintaining a focus on diversity, the OU administration broadened the MEP mission to include First Generation students. This change coincided with the physical relocation of the MEP offices and a transition in MEP staff. Recognizing that underrepresented students' experiences are often marginalized and not always heard by policy makers, we analyzed 208 semistructured interviews of 138 engineering majors in search of insight about how those decisions were experienced by African American, Hispanic American, Asian American, and Native American undergraduate engineering students. For some students, the broadening of the program's mission and changes in personnel provided access to resources previously not proffered to them; other students expressed an acute sense of loss of program identity. Literature about organization change indicates that attention by the institution to multidirectional, culturally competent communication might have made these transitions less stressful for the disaffected students. Institutional recognition and understanding of diverse and sometimes competing cultures can effectively facilitate program restructuring motivated by social, political, and economic forces.