On transfer student success: Exploring the academic trajectories of black transfer engineering students from community colleges Conference

Berhane, BT, Hayes, S, Koonce, DM et al. (2019). On transfer student success: Exploring the academic trajectories of black transfer engineering students from community colleges .

cited authors

  • Berhane, BT; Hayes, S; Koonce, DM; Salley, CJ; Fries-Britt, S; Pines, DJ



  • According to the National Science Foundation (NSF), half of Blacks who received a bachelor's degrees in an engineering or science discipline attended a community college at some point during their academic career. However, while research highlights the importance of supporting underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities (URMs) in STEM disciplines, there is a dearth of literature focusing on URMs in community colleges who pursue engineering and other science/math-based majors. Further, Black undergraduates in community colleges are often homogenized by area of study, with few efforts to disaggregate the data by major/discipline. Similarly, while engineering education research has begun to focus on the population of community college students, less attention has been paid to unpacking the experiences of racial subgroups of community college attendees. The engineering student transfer process has specific aspects related to it being a selective and challenging discipline (e.g., limited enrollment policies, engineering culture shock) that warrants a closer investigation. The purpose of this paper is to examine the experiences of a distinct population of students who have recently transferred from several community colleges to one four-year engineering school. Specifically, we will present preliminary findings from interviews with three Black students who started their academic careers at several community colleges in a Mid-Atlantic state before transferring to the flagship institution of that same state. Interview transcripts were analyzed and coded by different members of the research team to document rich themes. This research is part of a larger-scale, three-year, NSF-funded qualitative study, which examines the academic trajectories of two distinct groups of Black engineering majors: 1) Blacks born and educated in the United States and 2) Those born and educated in other countries. By looking at these two communities, we will build upon past literature that disaggregates the experiences of Black STEM students who represent multiple identities across the African diaspora. Through this lens, we hope to highlight the impact that cultural background may have on the transfer experience. The theoretical framework guiding this study is drawn from the STEM Transfer model and posits that the persistence of Black transfer students in engineering is a longitudinal process influenced by the intersection of both individual and institutional factors. We draw from the STEM transfer model, noting that the transfer process commences during a student's community college education and continues through his/her transfer and enrollment in an engineering program at a four-year institution. The following factors contribute to our conceptualization of this process: pre-college background, community college prior to transfer, initial transfer to the four-year university, nearing 4-year degree completion.

publication date

  • June 15, 2019