Exploring the Interpersonal Relationships of Black Men in Undergraduate Engineering Programs
Boyd-Sinkler, Karis Elisabeth
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The dilemma of making education an equitable system, especially for minoritized groups, has persisted for centuries. While there have been efforts aimed at decreasing disparities, there is still more work that needs to be done. An often-overlooked population in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) is Black men—a group at the nexus of being a gender majority and racial minority. Thus, the purpose of this exploratory research study is to understand how Black men experience interpersonal relationships in undergraduate engineering programs. The overarching research question that guides this study is: What are the qualitatively different aspects of interpersonal relationships experienced by Black men in undergraduate engineering programs? Using Bronfenbrenner's Ecological Systems Theory as a lens and a quasi-phenomenography methodology to understand the variance of the students' relationships, I conducted 14 semi-structured interviews with students who identified as a Black man and were a second-year or higher in their undergraduate engineering program. By examining interpersonal relationships, I clarify the meaningfulness of relationships at one historically Black college and university (N=1) and two historically white institutions (N=13). A total of seven relationship types and ten different ways students described their relationships were identified in the data. Each of the ways students described their relationship was organized on the emergent domains of academic, emotional/mental, financial, professional, social, and spiritual. Students also mentioned five environmental influences that impacted their experiences in engineering. My results indicate that students find value in relationships with people who were relatable, people who could provide insight or knowledge, and people who showed a sense of care or concern for the student. Students also mentioned how environmental influences bear significance on their over experience in engineering. The present study lays the groundwork for holistically examining the interpersonal relationships of Black men in undergraduate engineering programs.
General Audience Abstract
For decades, Black men have experienced educational hardships from as early as first grade. While many researchers have identified areas to improve the educational experience for Black men, few have looked at the educational experience of Black men in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). My research adds to the current conversations surrounding Black men in undergraduate engineering programs by looking at how relationships impact their educational experiences. I conducted a research study with 14 Black men in undergraduate engineering programs at two historically white institutions (N=13) and one historically Black university (N=1). I asked Black men about the types of relationships they had and why those relationships were meaningful to them. I also asked the students if there were outside influences such as stereotypes held by society that might impact how they look at their relationships. The students primarily discussed relationships with their STEM peers and professors. Relationships that were more meaningful for students were with people who were relatable, people who could provide insight or knowledge, and people who showed a sense of care or concern for the student. Outside influences that impacted students' relationships were their academic major, the type of institution they attended, their gender, their race/ethnicity, and National events. These findings contribute in several ways to our understanding of the value of relationships and provide a basis for future research involving Black men in STEM.
- Doctoral Dissertations