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Understanding URM STEM graduate students identity integration and assimilation into a community of practice (AGEP-BPR)

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Academic Level:
Graduate Students (PhD)
Faculty & Administrators

Underrepresented minority graduate students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) face multiple challenges with identity negotiation as they progress through graduate programs at Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs). Underrepresented minorities hold multiple identities reflecting race, ethnicity, gender, social roles, family roles, and career (e.g., scientist, engineer). These identities often conflict and, consequently, influence their choices, persistence, and success during the graduate years. This research project builds on social identity theory to understand the process of identity integration for underrepresented minority graduate students in STEM programs as they integrate into a community of practice. Identity integration is essential for lasting success. Little is known, however, about how multiple identities of underrepresented minorities in STEM conflict, intersect, and integrate as participants become productive members of a STEM community of practice.

Using a mixed-methods approach, this research traces the experiences of underrepresented minority graduate students in order to understand their negotiation of multiple, and often conflicting, identities as they progress through their STEM graduate programs. Pre- and post-surveys will measure changes in identity centrality and scientist-identity-interference. Multiple, regularly-scheduled interviews will assess the process of identity negotiation as graduate students become members of their disciplinary communities of practice. Social network analysis will document peer, colleague, advisor, and other support networks that URM graduate students construct as they become members of their disciplinary community of practice in STEM. Participants will be graduate students in STEM graduate programs at three PWIs. Studying these students over time will enable comparisons of identity integration, identity negotiation, and social networking. Collectively, these data will inform the development of a model for underrepresented minority STEM graduate student identity integration that identifies specific strategies for institutional support needed to promote successful assimilation into a STEM disciplinary community of practice.

 • Note: program recently funded through NSF AGEP

Participating Institution(s):
(Click an institution to see all programs it hosts)
Western Michigan University (Lead)

Program Materials:
 • Program Website 

This Program can be Described by:
Academic Disciplines:
Psychology & Behavioral Sciences
STEM Fields

Under-Represented Minorities

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This program is funded by:
National Science Foundation (NSF)

Page last updated 9/8/2018
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