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Graduate Students’ Multiple Identities: How can I be me and be a scientist? Minh Tran Felisha Herrera Josephine Gasiewski Higher Education Research Institute,

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Presentation on theme: "Graduate Students’ Multiple Identities: How can I be me and be a scientist? Minh Tran Felisha Herrera Josephine Gasiewski Higher Education Research Institute,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Graduate Students’ Multiple Identities: How can I be me and be a scientist? Minh Tran Felisha Herrera Josephine Gasiewski Higher Education Research Institute, UCLA NARST 2010 – Orlando, FL

2 Science & Social Identity Conflict Socialization into STEM requires students to assimilate into the narrow, exclusive, and objective disciplinary culture. URMs experience tension because they must detach their racial identity from their identity as developing scientists. “The reason I sometimes resist the label of a scientist is because that label comes a certain perspective that if I can’t observe it, then it doesn’t exist. The problem with science is that it’s only as good as the information you’re taking in, which is always limited. That leads to the interpretation that they’re not physicists because they can’t cut it. Because there’s so few people in the discipline who are Black, Hispanic, Native American, I guess, that makes a presumption of ignorance until proven that you’re competent. – Brody (African American Male, Physics Major, PWI)

3 Sexual Orientation Nationality/ Immigration Status Religion/ Spirituality Mental/Physical Ability Race/ Ethnicity Gender Culture Socioeconomic Status Science Identity Science Identity Development Model Multiple Contexts Societal Family/Community Science Science Context Interactions with faculty/peers in science Institution/ disciplinary culture Lab/classroom environments Adapted from: Jones & McEwen (2000) Science Identity Internal/External Recognition, Performance & Competence (Carlone & Johnson, 2007) Validation of cultural capital & recognition from non- science friends/ family (Rendon, 1994) Science Identity Internal/External Recognition, Performance & Competence (Carlone & Johnson, 2007) Validation of cultural capital & recognition from non- science friends/ family (Rendon, 1994)

4 Science Identity & Social Identity “I think I became interested in science just as a way to understand my surroundings. I grew up on an Indian reservation so I saw a lot of death and a lot of disease and things like that going on when I was growing up. My interest was, like I said, was to understand my environment and try to get a feel for the underlying causes of the things I was seeing.” - Landon (American Indian Male, Molecular Biology) Science identity – External and internal recognition Social identity – gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, nationality, socioeconomic status, religion/spirituality, and mental and physical ability.

5 Research Questions How do students’ multiple social identities interact with and develop alongside their emerging science identities? 1.How do graduate students experience conflict and/or convergence between their social Identities and emerging science identities? 2.How do these students negotiate conflict between social identities and science identities?

6 December 2009 to April hours of semi-structured focus group interviews 7 universities across US 3 PWIs, 3 HSIs, 1 HBCU 132 masters/doctoral students 46% Women 64% Men 8.4% Multi-Racial Avg. age 27.5 (range of years old) Methods

7 Narratives Kaelyn 2 nd year Ph.D. student in biology at an HBCU African American Woman 31 years old B.S. in biology at an HBCU M.S. in genetics at a PWI Parents are college educated Worked for 3 years at NSF Carson 4 th year Ph.D. student in bioinformatics at a PWI American Indian Man 32 years old B.S. in computer science at a PWI Mother graduated from high school, while father has a graduate degree Worked in a lab for 3 years conducting malaria research

8 Themes Identity Convergence Identity Conflict Agency/Negotiation Strategies

9 Convergence My family is very supportive and interested in all of those things. My brother is an electrical engineer… my uncle is an engineer. So, it's kind of like it wasn't anything new for me to become an engineer. – Chloe (African American Female, Chemical Engineering Major, PWI) “So now it’s starting to creep in a little bit more. I’m starting to maybe see myself that way, especially now that I’m applying for jobs…‘Ethnicity’ – Hispanic. I never felt like different or minority– especially here because there’s so many of us. But if I’m looking to get a job somewhere else, then that does become a factor. – Brianna (Latina, Industrial Engineering Major, HSI)

10 Identity Conflict I would talk to my professors about things, like Black history. Like “Don't skip over that page about Ernest Everett Just in the book. That's in the book. Let's read about this. I want to know. ” I know they didn't because that doesn't necessarily intrigue the students at Iowa like it intrigues me, but why can't other students know about what he did? – Kaelyn I was always reminded by people that there just aren’t a lot of Indians in science and math, so it’s important to follow that. I was recruited by a minority recruitment person, so when I got here the woman asked if I could help recruit more students. My advisor wouldn’t let me, so I told her I can’t do that. That put this tension between me and my advisor, who eventually cut my funding. – Carson

11 “I feel like I’m two different people when I’m at home and when I’m here at graduate school.” – Julia (Black Female, Genetics) “So I do think they interact all the time, but I think being in science and even as a student with an identity, I think they just blend. I think sometimes putting on your hat at this certain place is okay. Okay, now I have to [put on another hat because] now I’m with this group.” - Benjamin (Latino, Industrial Engineering) Wearing Multiple Hats

12 “One of my goals in getting a PhD is to develop a language to talk to people that don’t understand science – I want science to be more accessible so that people aren’t afraid of it. If I’m in the American Indian community, I always say diabetes because it’s one of the biggest things. So that’ll catch somebody’s ear and maybe they’ll be more interested. I have this story that I’ve made up where instead of talking about proteins I talk about zombies and that the misfolded proteins are zombies and they’re affecting people that are coming into the city. That’s a fun way for me to talk about what I do and people’s eyes don’t glaze over.” - Carson Making Science More Accessible “My family definitely cares. You’ve got to bring them along, explain the whole process of science and basically start at square one.” - Eric (Latino, Ecology)

13 “I did research with a Latina physician, who opened my eyes to a population-based approach to health as opposed to a one-on-one individual approach. I enjoyed her approach to problems that I sort of grew up with on the border in terms of environmental health conditions. That's what inspired me in graduate school.” – Jackson (Latino, Public Health) Redefining Science “One aspect of my identity is to help those young Black girls like me, that didn't know what they wanted to do. When we talk to undergraduates, I say, “Have you ever thought about graduate school?” If you've never done research, you might not even know that you’re interested. That's where the identity comes in, standing here as a Black woman for those who might not even know about this career path. – Kaelyn

14 Discussion Identity Convergence Early dispositions towards math and science Family members who were also scientists Structural diversity at institutions/STEM departments Identity Conflict Underrepresentation in STEM Lacked cultural inclusiveness and relevance in STEM Divergence between social identities and science identity Negotiation Strategies to Reconcile Identity Conflicts Wearing different hats within multiple contexts Simplifying science: Making science accessible Redefining science in terms of community & justice

15 Conclusion and Implications Future research studies should seek to: Understand agency, or how students position themselves to succeed and persist in STEM Examine how faculty and peers can recognize and validate, the unique perspectives students contribute to science. Identify institutional factors, such as educational practices, programs, and supportive contexts that have been effective at improving persistence by assisting students to negotiate identity conflicts

16 Contact Information Acknowledgments: This study was made possible by the support of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, NIH Grant Numbers 1 R01 GMO and R01 GMO as well as the National Science Foundation, NSF Grant Number This independent research and the views expressed here do not indicate endorsement by the sponsors. Papers and reports are available for download at: Project Faculty and Co-PIs: Sylvia Hurtado Mitchell Chang Monica Lin Gina Garcia Felisha Herrera Postdoctoral Scholars: Kevin Eagan Josephine Gasiewski Administrative Staff: Aaron Pearl Graduate Research Assistants: Christopher Newman Minh Tran Jessica Sharkness Cindy Mosqueda Juan Garibay Tanya Figueroa


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