Navigational Capital of African American Students in Engineering at a Predominantly White Institution
IEEE Computer Society Team
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Choosing where to go to college is an exciting and stressful time for American high school students. Not only are students submitting applications to their top schools of choice, but they’re also searching for ways to manage the cost of education through scholarships and financial aid. For students of color, additional questions must be asked, including if the faculty and student population can offer an environment that truly supports excellence among students of all backgrounds.
There are significant disparities between the conferring of STEM-related bachelor’s degrees to systemically underrepresented groups at four-year predominantly White institutions (PWIs) and the number of STEM faculty that hail from underrepresented groups. Despite studies showing diverse faculty improve access and success of diverse students, the number of African American faculty has increased only 2.3% at PWIs in the last 20 years.
This Research Work in Progress presents the lived experiences of African American students studying engineering at a predominantly White institution with low minority representation. Their experiences are viewed through the lens of navigational capital, positioning predominantly white institutions as an institution created without African Americans in mind. This qualitative study found that African American students use experiences, connections, involvement, and resources to attain resilience, academic invulnerability, and skills that contribute to their success.