ECR Projects

Explore past and current fundamental STEM education research projects across the three research areas that NSF's EDU Core Research (ECR) program funds, as well as across ECR funding types. Other search filters draw from both NSF's data and the ECR Hub's hand coding of award abstracts.

Ninth-grade biology students create cell models using clay.

Home > ECR Projects Search > Project Detail
STEM Learning and Learning Environments STEM Learning and Learning Environments  Broadening Participation in STEM Broadening Participation in STEM

STEM Undergraduate Education for Minoritized Students: A Longitudinal Mixed-Methods Study of the STEM Experiences of Hmong American College Students

Effective Years: 2022-2026

While progress has been made to increase enrollment numbers and graduation rates for ethnic and racial minorities in STEM, significant disparities remain. More investigations and interventions are needed to improve the educational outcomes for students of color in STEM. As a group, Asian American students are often excluded from these inquiries because they have shown positive gains in STEM education and career attainment, constituting 13% of the science and engineering workforce. However, when the data on “Asian” subgroups is separated, it is clear that Southeast Asian Americans (i.e., Cambodian, Lao, Vietnamese, and Hmong) are being overlooked and underserved. Despite having one of the lowest high school and undergraduate degree attainment rates in the nation, the struggles of Southeast Asian populations are often erased because of a “model minority stereotype” that views Asian Americans as a uniformly prosperous immigrant community and obscures the reality that Asian Americans deal with structural racism, poverty, and inadequate educational supports. This award expands on an ongoing research project conducted by University of Wisconsin (UW)–Madison educational researchers and Hmong student activists to investigate the STEM college experiences of Hmong students at the 13 campuses in the UW System. This study directly addresses NSF’s program goals by cultivating authentic, engaged partnerships with Hmong American students, scholars, and communities, and by centering the knowledge and voices of those impacted by the inequities caused by systemic racism in order to advance racial equity within STEM pathways. Active involvement of students and other stakeholders in this research will have broader impacts on the Hmong community throughout Wisconsin and beyond.

Pilot research examining the experiences of Hmong American undergraduate students at UW–Madison identified several factors, such as advising, gatekeeping mechanisms, and racial climate, that affectively redirected and/or pushed out Hmong-identified students from competitive STEM majors. In this NSF-funded project, researchers will investigate this “redirection” phenomenon by examining the sociocultural and institutional factors that impact the STEM pathways of Hmong American college students. A survey will be administered to Hmong American students at all 13 UW System universities and a longitudinal interview study will be conducted at three UW System institutions that serve Hmong American students. The study will fill major gaps in the literature by 1) considering the specific educational needs of individual Asian American populations and their intersectional social identities; 2) deepening the discussion of recruitment, retention, and graduation pathways; and 3) engaging students in decision-making processes that affect their higher education experiences using a participatory action research approach. This mixed-methods, longitudinal, multi-sited study will provide robust and complementary evidence to serve as the evidentiary basis to theorize factors impacting the STEM pathways and attainment of Hmong and other minoritized college students. These results will form the basis for efforts to develop institutional practices and policies supporting more inclusive STEM education at UW. It will also serve as the basis for similar studies in other groups of underrepresented and underserved students in STEM.

This collaborative project is funded through the Racial Equity in STEM Education program (EHR Racial Equity). The program supports research and practice projects that investigate how considerations of racial equity factor into the improvement of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and workforce. Awarded projects seek to center the voices, knowledge, and experiences of the individuals, communities, and institutions most impacted by systemic inequities within the STEM enterprise. This program aligns with NSF’s core value of supporting outstanding researchers and innovative thinkers from across the Nation's diversity of demographic groups, regions, and types of organizations. Funds for EHR Racial Equity are pooled from programs across EHR in recognition of the alignment of its projects with the collective research and development thrusts of the four divisions of the directorate.

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.