“I Wish that I Belonged More in this Whole Engineering Group:” Achieving Individual Diversity

Authors

  • Cynthia E. Foor,

    Corresponding author
    1. Research Institute for STEM Education University of Oklahoma
      RISE, 112 Fourth St., Box 6, University of Oklahoma Norman, OK 73019; telephone: (+ 1) 405.325.5775; e-mail: cynthia.e.foor-1@ou.edu.
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    • Cindy E. Foor is Assistant Director/Research Associate at the Research Institute for STEM Education (RISE) at the University of Oklahoma. As an anthropologist, her research interests include ethnography of marginalized populations, cultural theory, issues of gender and under-represented populations in STEM education and the cultural/historical construction of women's cultural identities and roles in past and present societies, with special focus on emerging nationalist projects.

  • Susan E. Walden,

    Corresponding author
    1. Research Institute for STEM Education University of Oklahoma
      Research Institute for STEM Education, 112 Fourth St., Box 6, Norman, OK 73019; telephone: (+1) 405.325.5775; e-mail: susan.e.walden-1@ou.edu.
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    • Susan E. Walden is the founding Director of the Research Institute for STEM Education and a Research Scientist in the K20 Center for Educational and Community Renewal at the University of Oklahoma. She received her Ph.D. in Computational Organic Chemistry from the University of Oklahoma. She has taught organic and general chemistry, but her primary interests are in researching educational equity and applying democratic pedagogies to the sciences and engineering. She is also interested in educational outreach to K-12 and gifted education for K-16. She is an active member of the American Chemical Society and the American Society for Engineering Education.

  • Deborah A. Trytten

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Computer Science University of Oklahoma
      Engineering Laboratory Room 108, Norman OK 73019-0631; telephone: (+1) 405.325.4299; fax: (+1) 405.325.4044; e-mail: dtrytten@ou.edu.
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    • Deborah A. Trytten is an Associate Professor in the School of Computer Science at the University of Oklahoma. Her research interests include gender and racial/ethnic diversity, building educational games, introductory software engineering education, and integrating teamwork into undergraduate Computer Science courses. She is a founding member of the University of Oklahoma's Research Institute for STEM Education. She earned M.S. degrees in Applied Mathematics and Computer Science and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Michigan State University. Her B.A. in Physics and Mathematics came from Albion College, in Albion, Michigan.


RISE, 112 Fourth St., Box 6, University of Oklahoma Norman, OK 73019; telephone: (+ 1) 405.325.5775; e-mail: cynthia.e.foor-1@ou.edu.

Research Institute for STEM Education, 112 Fourth St., Box 6, Norman, OK 73019; telephone: (+1) 405.325.5775; e-mail: susan.e.walden-1@ou.edu.

Engineering Laboratory Room 108, Norman OK 73019-0631; telephone: (+1) 405.325.4299; fax: (+1) 405.325.4044; e-mail: dtrytten@ou.edu.

Abstract

Engineers need a breadth of experience to enrich the gene pool of ideas from which elegant engineering solutions can be drawn, called “individual diversity.” While performing large ethnographic research studies where hundreds of engineering students were interviewed, we interviewed Inez, a student that epitomizes individual diversity. Inez is unlike most engineers: she is female, multi-minority, and from a socio-economically disadvantaged background. Inez's story is told here using “ethnography of the particular,” where the story of a single individual is explored. Inez has persevered through challenges posed by her lack of familiarity with the culture of engineering, her weak high school preparation, and her feelings of being an outsider in engineering. Inez's story demonstrates that the playing field in engineering is still not level, particularly for socio-economically disadvantaged students. Her story provides a poignant example of the impact of five of Conefrey's cultural myths of science.

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