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Representation and Retention in the Sciences: Investigating Inequities at a Minority-Serving Institution
thesisposted on 2021-05-01, 00:00 authored by Stephanie M Werner
Increasing diversity in STEM has been a “hot topic” for various educational, research, and governmental groups for some time. Yet, there is still substantial inequity in the representation, retention, and persistence of marginalized groups in the sciences. The overall goal of this three-study dissertation is to provide a comprehensive comparison of three STEM sciences (chemistry, biology, and physics) at a minority-serving institution and their individual roles in the exclusion or inclusion of marginalized students, specifically Black/African American and Hispanic/Latinx female and male students. Using a mixed-methods design, I present two sides of the persistence story, the institution and the student. Study 1 quantitatively describes the state of diversity and equity of the institution at three time points in the undergraduate experience. Study 2 uses cluster analysis of student affective traits and explores how clusters differ on demographics and course outcomes. Study 3 concludes with a qualitative interview design that explores common student experiences in introductory science courses and their rationale to leave a course or major. Results from Study 1 indicate that marginalized students at this MSI are disproportionately underrepresented in science degrees earned, switch out of science majors and opt into non-STEM majors more, and are significantly more likely to fail all introductory science courses compared to their White peers. Study 2 yielded six distinct affective clusters that differed significantly on course outcome, income level, and social influences. Lastly, in Study 3, four emergent themes characterized student persistence in the sciences: social capital and influences, sense of belonging, instructor and TA interactions, and college readiness. Implications for researchers, institutions, and individuals are discussed that can aid in the improvement of diversity, equity, and inclusion of marginalized students at this MSI and in the sciences more generally.