“Asians are Good at Math. What an Awful Stereotype” The Model Minority Stereotype's Impact on Asian American Engineering Students


School of Computer Science, University of Oklahoma, 110 W. Boyd; Room 234, Norman, OK 73019; dtrytten@ou.edu.

Oklahoma Baptist University, 1500 Oriole Drive, Norman OK 73071; awonglowe@gmail.com.

College of Engineering, Uni-versity of Oklahoma, 202 W. Boyd, Room 107, Norman, OK 73019; susan.walden@ou.edu.



The Model Minority Stereotype (MMS) describes Asians and Asian Americans (As/AsAm) as the epitome of assimilation into U.S. society using hard work, intelligence, high educational attainment, and economic success to overcome the challenges of discrimination and recent immigration. Certain facets of the MMS intersect with qualities often perceived as desirable in engineering education.

Purpose (Hypothesis)

Our research questions are: To what degree do academic data support the assertion that AsAm engineering students conform to the MMS? How do AsAm engineering students express the impact of the facets of the MMS on their lived experiences? What facets of the MMS are more often reported than others among AsAm engineering students? How do AsAm engineering students perceive their fellow racial/ethnic peers fit within the MMS?


The research uses a mixed methods approach including analysis of academic transcript data, surveys and semi-structured interviews.


The academic record of AsAm participants was not significantly different from participants in other racial/ethnic groups. Although the AsAm participants were not found to conform to the MMS academically, they discussed their perceptions of many facets of the MMS including: being hardworking, uncomplaining and extremely intelligent, and seeking both economic attainment and educational prestige. Interestingly, many students who denied that the stereotype applied to them projected this stereotype on other AsAms.


Documentation of the existence of the MMS on our campus shows that, although AsAm students are not underrepresented, they face stereotyping and discrimination. We present specific recommendations for institutions to address equity and parity challenges.