Exploring the Success of HBCUs Development of Blacks Earning Engineering and Computing Graduate Degrees Grant

Exploring the Success of HBCUs Development of Blacks Earning Engineering and Computing Graduate Degrees .


  • Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have played a critical role in the production of African American and Black students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). For graduate degrees, between 2002 and 2011, the National Science Foundation found that HBCUs comprised all ten of the top baccalaureate-origin institutions for Blacks who went on to obtain a doctorate degree in science and engineering. The predominance of HBCUs in the preparation of Black students for graduate programs suggests a need to better understand this under-explored success case and, in particular, the practices of these institutions that support prospective Black students as they explore and apply to graduate school. Identifying and disseminating these success cases will encourage HBCU and non-HBCU leaders to add resources towards matriculating more undergraduate students in STEM including increasing the number that go on to pursue masters and PhDs in engineering and computing. In addition, this study will provide an opportunity for non-HBCU organizations to better understand HBCUs, their culture and how they can be more strategic in partnering with them as well as recruiting and retaining engineering and computing HBCU students at the graduate level. Through the resulting evidence-based insights and recommendations, this project will contribute to the goals outlined by the National Academies: (1) increasing underrepresented minority students' interest in graduate STEM degrees, (2) retaining and graduating Black students in those programs, and (3) documenting best practices for others to use.Using a three-phased study, the research team will (1) examine the pathways and experiences of HBCU engineering and computing undergraduates who are interested in graduate school and (2) isolate the individual, institutional and cultural factors that contribute to their overall undergraduate experiences and lead to successful completion of engineering and computing graduate programs. Phase I will seek breadth by collecting survey data from current students and recent alumni associated with engineering and computing programs at HBCUs. Phase II will serve to develop rich insights from three particular HBCUs through in-depth, interview-based case studies. The three institutions will be selected through purposive sampling using maximum variation techniques of the Phase I results. Phase III will involve sharing the integrated results from Phases I and II with HBCU students and stakeholders during two validation workshops at the 2021 National Society of Black Engineers National Convention and at the 2021 Annual American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference. The integrated results of these three phases will add to the research community's understanding of the experiences of Black students at HBCUs including the contribution of administrators, faculty and staff towards their students' interest, eventual pursuit and completion of engineering and computing graduate degrees. In addition, empirically-informed dissemination workshops will engage and equip stakeholders from HBCUs and other institutions to examine their own practices and adopt approaches that can increase underrepresented minority students' interest and preparedness for graduate programs.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.

date/time interval

  • September 1, 2019 - August 31, 2023

sponsor award ID

  • 1923229