A Systematized Literature Review of The Factors that Influence the Retention of Racially Minoritized Students in STEM Graduate Degree Programs
According to ASEE’s 2018 “Engineering by the Numbers” Report, racially minoritized students constituted 19.1% of engineering baccalaureate degrees awarded, 17.4% of engineering master’s degrees awarded, and 12.1% of engineering doctoral degrees awarded across the United States. There is a significant and troubling decrease in the representation of Hispanic or Latinx, Black and/or African American, American Indian or Native American, and Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders as we move up the graduate seniority levels. This is a concern that is mirrored in a lack of continuance to graduate study across all Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. While there is currently an extensive body of research on the factors that predict the retention of racially minoritized groups in undergraduate education, it fails to provide scholarly insights or recommendations for practice on factors that impact graduate education. To combat the issue of underrepresentation, it is important for researchers to understand these factors, how they may differ from K-12 and undergraduate levels, and what types of interventions can be put in place to address them. To respond to this need, we present a systematized literature review of articles relevant to understanding the factors that predict the retention of underrepresented and/or racially minoritized students in STEM graduate degree programs.
This systematized literature review found three emergent themes that contribute to the internal attitude to persist and external environment conducive to retention. These themes are grouped by personal factors, social factors, and institutional factors. Findings suggest that there are personal factors that influence minoritized graduate students’ retention such as internal motivation, identity development, perception of support, and resilience towards stereotypes, bias, and past experiences. Social/relational aspects also heavily influence students’ retention through factors such as sense of belonging, discrimination, advisor and faculty support, mentoring, and work-life balance. Furthermore, the results also identify institutional factors as key players in the retention of minoritized graduate students. These factors are department and campus culture, access to URM (underrepresented minority) role models, and vast networks of societies, alumni, and government programs. The amount of information that was available on these minoritized groups in STEM graduate degree programs was a limitation for this study, but it also pointed to an important gap in the literature, which must be addressed in order to create effective interventions that broaden participation in STEM graduate studies and furthermore in the STEM ecosystem.
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