Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

A Balancing Act: Impacting and Initiating the Success of African American Female Community College Transfer Students in STEM into the HBCU Environment

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

A Balancing Act: Impacting and Initiating the Success of African American Female Community College Transfer Students in STEM into the HBCU Environment

Article excerpt

Introduction

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) play a critical role in the educational experiences of African Americans. Of the top 20 leading producers of African American bachelor's degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, all but three are HBCUs (Borden & Brown 2004). In 2010, HBCUs were the source of 17.6% of all bachelor's degrees to African Americans but 19.2% of the bachelor's degrees to African Americans in STEM fields. HBCUs are also a relatively more important source of STEM degrees for African American women than African American men. According to the National Science Foundation (NSF, 2013), 15.8% of all science and engineering bachelor's degrees awarded to African American women in 2010 were from HBCUs, compared to only 14.5% of bachelor degrees in STEM fields awarded to African American men. Coupled with these findings is the large number of African American women enrolled in our nation's community colleges. According to NSF (2013), there has been almost a 50% increase of African American females at community colleges. This insinuates that a large portion of African American female STEM talent will be entering the HBCU environment through the community college environment. For the purpose of this study Black and African American will be used interchangeably throughout.

Given the aforementioned statistics on the underrepresentation of African American females in math- and science-related areas, and the role of community colleges and HBCUs in the success of African American females, it is surprising that the literature is bleak regarding the representation of African American female community college transfer students who are enrolled at HBCUs and their overall experiences as a transfer student in STEM. In fact, Hawkins (2013) asserted that according to the Association of American Community Colleges and the Center for the Study of Community Colleges "data on the number of community college students who transfer to HBCUs aren't tracked" (para. 13). With a large representation of African American students entering four-year HBCUs through the community college environment, examining and exploring the experiences of this population will assist in highlighting factors that positively impact their successful transfer from the community college into the four-year HBCU environment. This study draws attention to a very unique population-African American female community college transfer students in STEM disciplines at a four-year HBCU.

The literature is explicit regarding the need to increase the representation of students of color in STEM in the United States. This urgency emerges from the current shortage of competent individuals in math- and science-related fields. The projection that minorities will represent about half of the resident United States population by 2050 (Ortman & Guameri, 2009) makes this population a viable option for fulfilling many of the jobs in the STEM workforce. Even with this urgency, "completion rates for African-American, Hispanic, Native American and low-income students are lower than the overall numbers" in STEM-related areas (Bailey & Alfonso, 2005, p. 5). This indicates that we are losing a very talented population of students of color at every educational level and in many STEM content areas. Additionally, the National Science Foundation revealed that female and minority students are behind compared to their male and race majority counterparts in achieving degrees in the STEM areas (NSF, 2013). More specifically, female participation in engineering and computer science remains below 30% and since 2000, the representation of underrepresented minorities has remained flat in the physical sciences and has dropped in mathematics (NSF, 2013).

Using the Triple Quandary Theory (Boykin & Toms,1985) and its interplay among three tenets: (a) mainstream experience, (b) Black cultural socialization and (c) the minority socialization experience; the purpose of this study is to explore the experiences of seven African American community college female transfer students who are currently enrolled at an HBCU in a STEM bachelor's degree program. …

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