Investigating Factors that Influence African American Students’ Selection of Computational Internships and Careers
Effective Years: 2021-2023
The project is designed to enable the principal investigator to conduct an exploratory research project while acquiring skills and competencies to conduct robust STEM education research. The research component will examine factors and experiences that impact African American students’ decision to pursue careers that require quantitative and computational skills. The mentored professional development component will provide the investigator with expertise in qualitative research design and methods and with the design of an experimental intervention. The project will be implemented in three phases: (1) building capacity in qualitative research methods, design-based research, and analytic techniques of qualitative data; (2) collecting interview and qualitative data with the guidance of mentors; and (3) framing a pilot intervention to increase African American students’ interest in majors and careers that emphasize competencies in quantitative and computational sciences. In addition to expanding the base of scholars from Historically Black Colleges and Universities conducting STEM education research, the project will advance the understanding of the experiences and career decision-making process of African American students seeking computational careers and internships.
The hypothesis guiding the research is that a structured college curriculum, extra-curricular programs and activities, African American role models and peer influence, sense of belonging and self-efficacy, faculty advising, and effective recruiting strategies are the variables that positively impact African American students’ awareness of and interest in computationally related majors and careers. The investigator will use a triangulation of perspectives to examine the factors that influence African American students’ career trajectories from the perspectives of students, STEM faculty at Fisk University, and industry recruiters. The qualitative data analysis will examine what and how social, cultural, and contextual factors impact African American students’ career selection in computing and math-related careers. The investigator will analyze data from interviews and focus groups and apply a design-based methodology to frame the proposed intervention - a Computational Career Alliance that will serve as an infrastructure to build internal capacity to conduct STEM education research at a Historically Black College and University. The intervention also can potentially broaden the participation of African American students in STEM majors and careers.
The project is supported by the ECR: Building Capacity in STEM Education Research competition of the EHR Core Research (ECR) program. ECR funds fundamental STEM education research projects that address STEM learning and learning environments, broadening participation in STEM fields, and STEM 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.