Factors Influencing the Persistence and Non-Persistence of African American Students in Scientific Majors at a Predominantly White University

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Virginia Tech


Factors that influenced African Americans to persist or not persist within their scientific major while matriculating at a predominantly White university guided the focus of this study. The study explored the perceptions of African Americans that were both persistent and non-persistent within with their scientific major in order to gain a better understanding of what steps could be taken for the retention and encouragement of more African Americans in these fields at a predominantly White university. The study explored other factors besides intelligence that inhibited or promoted the success of African Americans in scientific fields.

The study was qualitative in nature and participant interviews provided the data for the study. Actor network theory was used as a theoretical framework for exploring the factors that caused students to persist or not persist within a scientific major with the major implications of the study being: (1) The persistence of students had more to do with the open and closed networks they participated in rather than their intellect; (2) The student development of networks aligned with their ability to overcome the negative images associated with them in science; (3) Students’ development of closed networks were a means of protection.



African Americans in science, networks, relationships, attrition, diversity, retention