Examining the Cultural Wealth of Underrepresented Minority Engineering Persisters

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One of the most significant challenges facing engineering education in the United States is the persistent problem of the inclusion and retention of certain racial and ethnic groups. Academic and institutional factors, both precollege and college, have been linked to the underrepresentation of certain race/ethnicity groups (URM) in engineering programs and the engineering workforce. The authors present an exploratory study of junior and senior URM engineering students who have successfully navigated through the undergraduate engineering programs at a predominantly White public urban research university. The purpose of the study was to describe how these URM engineering persisters used different forms of cultural wealth to achieve their goal of obtaining an engineering degree. The descriptive quantitative data indicated that the persisters used several types of cultural wealth, with aspirational, linguistic, familial, and peer social capital the most prevalent. Focus group discussions revealed how the persisters remained focused on their goal of becoming engineers, used the family as a source of support and motivation, and found support from the faculty in the competitive culture of engineering.

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