Keywords: Race/ethnicity, undergraduate, engineering
Thought must be given to how individuals from underrepresented groups (URGs) conceptualize their academic engineering identities. Black male students have been shown to face a great challenge in integrating their racial identification into their self-concept. This “balancing act” involves the navigation and negotiation between multiple social spaces. The establishment of a positive identity associated with engineering is critical to how underrepresented students establish their sense of agency and overall “fit” within the institutional and/or professional setting. Yet, because of low numbers in participant populations, many studies fail to disaggregate the experiences of individuals from URGs. Further, if makerspaces represent an avenue of hope for fostering a generation of makers and innovative thinkers prepared to address the needs and challenges of our society, it is quite plausible that without careful attention we could be building another exclusionary system through makerspaces, grounded in the acceptance of Caucasian, male experiences and perceptions as the status quo. As making could potentially impact academic progression, through early exposure and opportunities to develop confidence through building, design, iteration and community, it is critical that we understand how all students, especially those from underrepresented groups, come to affiliate with, become alienated from and/or negotiate the cultural norms within these maker communities. To achieve this, it is necessary to explore the complexities of underrepresented students’ identity development. This study investigated the experiences of Black male engineering students that have also engaged in university-affiliated makerspaces as makers. Seven Black male students from a range of institution types, including Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs), Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Asian American Native American Pacific Islander Institutions (AANAPI), participated in narrative interviews to ascertain stories of their personal growth and identity development. Engaging in makerspaces was found to promote agency and engineering identity for Black male undergraduates; however, makerspaces located at PWIs were found to reflect the heteronormative culture of engineering in a way that challenged smooth navigation in and through these spaces for Black men.
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