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Understanding the Experiences of the Under-represented in Engineering

Event Date: March 27, 2008
Speaker: Odesma Dalrymple
Speaker Affiliation: School of Engineering Education, Purdue University
Sponsor: ENE School
Time: 3:30-4:30
Location: ARMS B071
Contact Name: Alice Pawley
Contact Phone: 6-1209
Contact Email:
Open To: Faculty, students, staff

According to September 2000 report by the Congressional Commission on the Advancement of Women and Minorities in Science, Engineering and Technology Development, white women, and African Americans, Hispanics, and American Indians of both sexes are underrepresented as science and engineering degree recipients at all levels, in relation to their representation in the college-age population. As a result, they are also under-represented in the Science and Engineering workforce. Coupled with the impending threat to the nation’s pre-eminence and well being as a result of the growing gap between the supply and demand for scientist, engineers and other technically skilled workers, ethnic and gender disparity in the science, technology, engineering , and mathematics(STEM) pipeline has become an issue of national concern. To effectively address this national concern, the development and implementation of policy to ameliorate the disparities must be informed by accurate interpretations of the effects of race, ethnicity and gender on educational experiences and outcomes.

To what extent has current literature and research practice examined the experiences of minorities as it pertains to their trajectory in the engineering pipeline? The dominant practice in education research treats race and ethnicity either as a culture or a variable. Both approaches are conceptually limited because they mask the heterogeneity of the minority experience, under-analyze institutionalized productions of race and racial discrimination, and confound causes and effects in estimating when and how race and ethnicity are significant.

This presentation will expound on the issues related to the treatment of race and ethnicity in education research and use this framework to elucidate some of the limitations of current literature related to the trajectory of minorities in the engineering pipeline. The intent is to encourage further discourse and re-evaluation of engineering education research practice with respect to understanding the under-representation phenomenon in engineering.