Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Education/Higher Education PhD

First Advisor

Katalin Szelenyi

Second Advisor

Tara Parker

Third Advisor

Phil Gardner


The purpose of this case study was to explore how African American and Hispanic women with bachelor's degrees in science technology engineering, and math (STEM) made immediate career decisions. Research questions addressed if differences exist in undergraduate experiences and if differences are related to first career decisions. Social Cognitive Career theory and the Culturally Appropriate Career Counseling model guided the study.

The results showed that academic challenges, continued interest in STEM fields, confidence, and interactions with faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate student peers shaped the attainment of various educational and career outcomes. A theme consistent for all participants was the experience of isolation in and outside of the classroom. Additionally, results showed the various influences of gender roles and culture on academic and career decisions.

This study makes several important contributions to the understanding of how African American and Hispanic women with bachelor's degrees in STEM fields make career decisions. First, confidence in abilities especially in STEM fields is necessary. If not addressed early on during a student's educational journey, a lack of confidence in abilities has crippling effects on students' persistence and interest in STEM. Additionally, there appears to be a heightened level of isolation in STEM education, perhaps because the proportion of underrepresented racial/ethnic minorities is lower in STEM than in other academic fields. In the transition from degree to career, the multiple identities of Hispanic and African American women were all important parts of their decision making. Gender roles were most important for Hispanic participants, but all participants were concerned with balancing their future personal and professional roles. Furthermore, STEM workplaces are still seen as male-dominated and not flexible enough for women who desire to have both a professional and personal life.


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