Negotiating Belongingness: A Longitudinal Narrative Inquiry of a Latina First-generation College Student's Experience in the Engineering Culture

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Abstract

Research studies have long argued that a sense of belonging is essential for minoritized students' continued engineering persistence. Common factors that have been found to promote a sense of belonging include campus diversity, institution's culture, perceived class comfort, faculty interactions, and peer support. Yet, there is much to be understood about how nontraditional students sense of belonging is promoted within the engineering culture. The purpose of this study is to understand how one Latina, first-generation college student, and a nontraditional student (i.e., age greater than 25, parental responsibilities, and part-time student) negotiated ways of belonging in engineering admits a culture that continuously denied her a sense of belonging. Specifically, the author sought to answer the following research questions, RQ1. How did the engineering culture, classroom, and university environment contest Kitatoi's sense of belonging? RQ2. How did Kitatoi establish a sense of belonging amidst the engineering culture at her institution? Data for this study came from five rounds of narrative interviews collected over a year and a half of one participant, Kitatoi. Kitatoi spent six years as a part-time community college student and has now completed one academic year at Research State University. Research State University is a Hispanic Serving Institution with a Carnegie Classification of highest research activity, with an enrollment of 41% Latinx undergraduate student population, 50% first-generation college students, and nationally praised for being a beacon of social mobility to students in the surrounding geographic area, specifically enrolling a large portion of Pell Grant eligible students than nearly every university in the country. The method used to analyze the interviews was an analysis of narratives; this method allows researchers to organize storied data into salient narrative threads, themes, and patterns across a participant's experiences. The author looked across five transcribed interviews, collected after completing each quarter, to understand common and salient experiences and relationships among the experiences. Reliability and validity were considered using the typology outlined in the quality management model. Kitatoi's experiences were organized into four themes that were common across multiple interviews. Her sense of belonging was often (re)negotiated for the following reasons, 1) when positioned at the outskirts of engineering despite the diverse campus environment, 2) when instructors reproduced a particular way of being an engineer that left her struggling to feel a sense of belonging, 3) when juxtaposed her ways of belonging with her peers, and 4) her belongingness was supported when she identified peers with similar work styles. The findings from this analysis of narratives can continue to shed light on the ways minoritized students' sense of belonging in engineering is disrupted even in a campus culture that is praised for its demographic diversity. Strategies for instructors to implement in their classrooms, framed to support nontraditional students, are outlined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jul 26 2021
Externally publishedYes
Event2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference, ASEE 2021 - Virtual, Online
Duration: Jul 26 2021Jul 29 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)

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