Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Education/Higher Education PhD

First Advisor

Tara L. Parker

Second Advisor

Ray Franke

Third Advisor

Lindsey Malcom-Piqueux


In 2012, 1% of the African American women who enrolled in an undergraduate engineering program four years prior graduated, amounting to 862 African American women graduating with engineering degrees. This qualitative study, anchored in interpretive phenomenological methodology, utilized undergraduate socialization with an overarching critical race theory lens to examine the manner in which African American women in engineering, such as the 862, make meaning of their experiences at predominately White institutions.

The findings of the study are important because they corroborated existing research findings and more importantly, the findings in this study emphasize the importance of faculty and institutional agent support, self-efficacy leading to motivation, academic achievement goals and the development of science identities. These factors were significant to the persistence of African American women in this study. Moreover, this study’s findings suggest that these factors must work in concert to be most effective. The findings demonstrated that students need to develop relationships with faculty, administrators and peers. The administrators provide access to resources that assist with persistence and peers are needed for group work and academic support. The faculty relation is most important because the faculty members provide access to information, research opportunities, grades and research and industry contacts. The research also found that the women carried the responsibility of developing and nurturing the relation with the faculty.

Moreover, all of the African American women in the study acknowledge racism and sexism however, they responded to these deterrents differently. Some of the women were negatively affected while others chose to ignore the deterrents. However, with the presence of these obstacles, the study validated the notion that these African American women in engineering had a strong sense of self-efficacy which provided a foundation for the women to possess science identities: research scientist, altruistic or disruptive. With these identities, the African American women sought to engage their scientific knowledge further in graduate school, the workplace and altruistically to improve upon society.

These findings produce implications for policy and practice, suggesting that engineering colleges commit to transforming academic environments to reflect an atmosphere that is inclusive and supportive of racial and gender differences. This transformation should encompass pedagogy, curriculum, composition of faculty and student populations as well as the academic culture, allowing for a more welcoming and supportive atmosphere, where African American women can persist without concern for proving themselves because of their race or gender.