Collaborative Research: Intersectionality of Non-Normative Identities in the Cultures of Engineering (InIce) Grant

Collaborative Research: Intersectionality of Non-Normative Identities in the Cultures of Engineering (InIce) .


  • This project is motivated by the need to increase and diversify the engineering workforce, which will help to increase economic growth and prosperity in the United States. The ultimate goal of this project is to understand more effectively the ways in which students can become interested in pursuing engineering majors in college and how to help them persist through to the end of an engineering degree, with particular attention on those students who may have different views of the role of engineering. This will be accomplished by a large quantitative assessment followed by a longitudinal study of students who are identified as holding various normative or non-normative attitudinal profiles,with a focus on understanding students' feelings of belongingness in engineering and their developing engineering identities. The outcomes of this work will result in practical ways to increase diversity in engineering programs through research-based recruitment and teaching strategies focused on student identities within engineering. Specific course materials will be developed to target graduate students entering academia (who will be teaching future engineering students) to help begin to foster a more welcoming culture in engineering.The theoretical framing of this work is an intersectional approach towards "normativity" in engineering culture. Methodologically, this project will utilize modern statistical techniques to identify clusters of students through their attitudinal data, without the prior imposition of categorizations of students (e.g. gender, race, ethnicity) in order to understand how engineering students' attitudes group into various "normative" and "non-normative" profiles. Following this, we will conduct a longitudinal study of a selection of students from the empirically-identified attitudinal profiles to understand how these students navigate their engineering experiences and develop their identities in their chosen majors. The intellectual merit of this work is an improved understanding of the ways in which different students develop their engineering identities, navigate their engineering communities, and enculturate into their chosen disciplines as well as in the development of practical ways to help students be successful in engineering. This extends previous findings that dissatisfaction and lack of community within engineering are causes for students not choosing or leaving engineering studies. Addressing the core issue of student perceptions of not fitting into engineering can begin to staunch the exodus of talented individuals from engineering. The results of this research will then be incorporated into the development of workshops (for current graduate students and faculty) and widely available graduatecourses designed around diversity in engineering. The broader impact of this work will be to promote an empirically-validated understanding of how to retain a more diverse body of engineering majors including pragmatic solutions for educators and administrators, both at the researchers' institutions and in the wider engineering community.

date/time interval

  • September 15, 2014 - August 31, 2018

administered by

sponsor award ID

  • 1428689