Campus Climate and the Underrepresented Minority Engineering Student Experience: A Critical Race Study

In the current technological era, the number of minorities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is a crucial factor in predetermining the economic growth of the United States. Since the minority population is growing at much faster rates than the non-minority population, the lack of proportionate production of minority engineers poses a threat to the United States’ ability to remain a global competitor in technological innovation. Sixty-three per cent (63%) of undergraduate students who enter engineering majors continue on to graduate in that major. The graduation rate, however, for African-American, Hispanic, and Native-American students in engineering is significantly lower at 39%. As this group represents only a small fraction of the annual student enrollment, engineering programs are graduating these minority groups at rates that are greatly disproportionate to United States demographics. Therefore, researchers are thoroughly investigating certain initiatives that promote academic success among underrepresented minority students in engineering. Colleges and universities have attempted to address the growing achievement gap between underrepresented minority and non-minority engineering students, predominately through various deficit-based interventions, focusing on the student’s flaws and problems. As the pipeline for minorities in engineering continues to narrow, it begs the question of whether institutions are focusing on the right solutions to the problem. Critical Race Theory scholars argue that colleges and universities must address institutional climate issues around students, such as racism, microaggressions, and marginalization, before members of oppressed groups can truly succeed. This dissertation explored the unique experiences of underrepresented minority engineering students in a predominately White and Asian campus.