What Black Doctoral Students in STEM Want and What Their Faculty are Giving: How the Differences Impact Students’ Mental Health and Career Trajectory Deci
Effective Years: 2021-2024
To increase the diversity of the PhD-prepared workforce, understanding underlying issues affecting retention and completion of doctoral degrees is essential. Researchers at Arizona State University and University of Massachusetts Boston, propose to study the expressed needs of Black doctoral students in relation to faculty perceptions of what they are providing during advising relationships. Understanding the mental health impacts of cumulative experiences that marginalize Black graduate students, will advance knowledge by providing recommendations for developing inclusive environments and mentoring strategies that are effective at supporting Black students. Through a two-phase design, the project aims to use detailed interviews regarding the experiences of marginalization, mental health, and career trajectory decisions of graduate students, and faculty perceptions of supports and contributors or deterrents to providing supports. The project is aligned with the EHR Core Research program’s goal of addressing challenges in STEM interest, learning, and participation.
The research design is framed by extending Role Strain Theory to include the tension that Black students may feel in relationships during graduate programs. The central hypothesis is that intersectional experiences of marginalization and the STEM environment among Black doctoral students impact mental health and career trajectory decisions. The project aims to understand the contributors and deterrents for faculty to address systemic barriers. A nationwide sampling strategy will include representation from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Predominately White Institutions (PWIs), and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs). The project aims to match critical identity aspects in the interviewer-interviewee pairing within each phase of the project. Phenomenological principles grounded in a social constructivist paradigm will guide the interpretation of individual interviews. The research responds to the need for understanding barriers to success in graduate programs for Black students by novel coordination and expansion of traditional educational research strategies with strategies typically utilized by counseling psychologists. The creation of a tip sheet on promising practices for supporting Black students and an online repository aims to inform faculty advisors who seek to improve communication and mentoring for their students.
The project is funded by the EHR Core Research program that supports fundamental research focused on STEM learning and learning environments, broadening participation in STEM, and STEM professional workforce development.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.