Race, Religion, and STEM: Examining the Intersections for Black Students
Effective Years: 2022-2025
This project will explore how Black undergraduate and graduate students in STEM view the relationship between religion and science, and the implications for their persistence in STEM. The project is of significance because religion and religious communities were recently identified as a vital source of support for many of Black students, although for STEM students the dichotomy between science and religion can be challenging. While numerous studies document perceived tensions between religion and science among predominantly white groups, very few of these studies specifically address the perspectives of Black individuals, despite historically high rates of religiosity within Black communities. Consequently, little is known about the implications of Black students’ views on the relationship between religion and science for participation in STEM. The project will shed insight into intersectionality of race, religion, and STEM with a goal of providing a more complex and textured portrait of factors that facilitate and/or challenge Black student participation in STEM.
The goal of the project is to examine how Black undergraduate and graduate students in STEM view and negotiate their relationships between science and religion throughout their academic journeys. This project will primarily focus on extrinsic religiosity (e.g., participation in religious services and prayer) and intrinsic religiosity (e.g., encompassing beliefs and values), with a secondary focus on religious identity (including identification as religious, spiritual, or not identifying as either, as well as self-concept related to religious affiliation/membership). The three theoretical frameworks guiding this research are 1) boundary construction between science and religion, 2) STEM identity formation, and 3) the influence of religiously-linked social capital on participation in STEM. Participants will be recruited from three public traditionally white institutions and one historically Black college and university (HBCU). After completing a baseline demographic survey, qualitative interviews will be conducted with 1) 30 Black undergraduate students majoring in biology and 30 non-biology STEM majors; 2) 30 Black undergraduate students not majoring in STEM, including those who left STEM; and 3) 30 Black graduate students pursuing biology degrees and 30 pursuing non-biology STEM degrees. These interviews will ask about their perspectives on religion and science, how religious identity and participation have influenced experiences in STEM, and how such experiences have influenced their decisions to participate in STEM academic degree programs. The interviews will be transcribed verbatim. The interview data will be coded and analyzed using the constant-comparative method and entered qualitative data analysis software. Cross-case analysis will also be used to compare and contrast cases within the sample. Participants will be given the opportunity to review manuscripts with their quotations and asked to provide feedback to ensure the analysis and interpretation of their words is consistent with their understanding and intentions. This project will add critical foundational knowledge to the STEM education literature on broadening the participation of underrepresented minorities by documenting the influence of religion in the lives of Black students in STEM, as well as non-STEM majors’ perspectives on religion and science.
This project is supported by NSF's EHR Core Research (ECR) program. The ECR program emphasizes fundamental STEM education research that generates foundational knowledge in the field. Investments are made in critical areas that are essential, broad and enduring: STEM learning and STEM learning environments, broadening participation in STEM, and STEM workforce development. The program supports the accumulation of robust evidence to inform efforts to understand, build theory to explain, and suggest intervention and innovations to address persistent.
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.