This Is Bigger Than Me: A Multiple Case Narrative Analysis of Sociopolitical Development within Black Engineers' Career Journeys

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Virginia Tech


Exploring the stories of Black engineers provide an opportunity to challenge dominant narratives about the apolitical nature of engineering work and realize the potential of bridging the socio-technical divide. Sociopolitical development (SPD) is an inclination towards social justice, the motivation to address social inequality in surrounding environments, and the formation of social agency to address contextual oppression. The purpose of this multiple case narrative study is to explore the process of SPD within five Black engineers' narratives who are inspired to address social inequities through their engineering work. The overarching research question is: How does the SPD process unfold through the career narratives of Black engineers? Through the multiple settings surrounding Black engineers' career development, this research provides insight into how engineering stakeholders influence the cultural values underlying the nature of engineering work. Throughout their career narratives, Black engineers' awareness, behavior, and evaluations of critical consciousness evolve. Events shaping their SPD are also mapped to the socio-ecosystems. The movement through SPD elements depict the holistic nature of the SPD process for Black engineers experiences in childhood, formal education, and the workforce. These results contribute to engineering education literature by: (1) presenting a counter-narrative of engineering work that accounts for the perspectives of Black engineers; (2) highlighting the sense of agency that is necessary to integrate social justice elements in engineering practice; (3) emphasizing the utility of critical consciousness development in establishing a sense of fulfillment in engineering identity; and (4) discussing the influence of critical reflection and social identities on political efficacy and action. Insights from this study should compel engineering stakeholders to reflect on how engineering values perpetuate inequities in engineering pathways and engagement.



Critical Consciousness, Black Engineers, Engineering Work