This presentation takes an intricate look at the factors that motivate Black and Latino students to engage in STEM. According to the literature, the U.S. workforce could employ as many as 140,000 additional Black and Latino college graduates in STEM fields annually. Thus, the goal of this presentation is to inform the STEM education-to-career pipeline of a five-step, motivation-based process that encourages Black and Latino students to engage in STEM.
Adrienne Coleman, Ed.D.
Multicultural Education Specialist
Illinois Mathematics And Science Academy
Biography: Adrienne Coleman possesses a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Argosy University as well as two Masters of Science in Health Education and Educational Administration and Foundation from Illinois State University. Currently, she is employed at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA), a three year residential high school for gifted students, as the Multicultural Education Specialist. She previously worked at Rutgers University as a Program Development Specialist and at Illinois State University as a Health Educator. Adrienne has served as an AmeriCorps member and has been part of the United States delegation team to assist Moldova in addressing issues of human trafficking and inadequate health education. Her areas of interest include public health, social justice/diversity education and higher/gifted education. She hopes to continue promoting diversity/inclusion and providing enrichment opportunities, specifically STEM related for underrepresented populations.
Is STEM truly for all? According to the literature, it is rare to find gifted and talented Black and Latino Students who are engaged in STEM. They are virtually invisible in STEM majors and careers. Caucasians and Asians view STEM careers as a world of opportunities, whereas Blacks and Latinos view them as challenging and inaccessible. This results from a lack of exposure to STEM in K-12 education, mathematics phobias, students’ misperceptions of what science is, lack of real-life application of science, lack of motivation to succeed, and peer pressure that devalues high achievement. Black and Latino students tend to pursue familiar areas, such as the arts or athletics where they are sure they can excel because their role models have excelled in those areas already.
The literature has shown that Blacks and Latinos are earning less than other subcultures. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median income for Blacks is $58,000, almost $20,000 less than Whites. However, the median income for Blacks in STEM careers is $75,000, which is only about $10,000 less than Whites (Landivar, 2013). With Blacks and Latinos not pursuing a STEM education, they are unable to excel in careers that typically provide a higher standard of living (Riegle-Crumb, Moore, & Ramos-Wada, 2010). Whites and Asians view STEM careers as a world of opportunities; whereas, Blacks and Latinos view them as challenging and inaccessible (The Center on Education and Work, 2008). The U.S. Congress Joint Economic Commission stated that between 2010 and 2020 the overall employment in STEM occupations will increase by 17 percent, yet not enough students are pursuing degrees and careers in the STEM fields to meet this increasing demand (Casey, 2012). Thus, this racially based STEM education gap needs to be examined in order to engage more Black and Latino students in STEM careers, and ultimately to improve the economies of those communities.
Although this STEM gap exists, Black and Latino students currently enrolled at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA) suggest that STEM is for all. They are motivated to engage in STEM, and they plan on majoring in STEM as well as entering STEM careers. These 85 students were asked “What factors do gifted and talented Black and Latino students identify as motivating them to engage in STEM at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, a residential academy for gifted/talented students?” The trends that all students agreed upon include personal drive to learn, obligation to Black and Latino community to eliminate negative stigmas about Black and Latino students, and solve problems/to advance humanity. This presentation will inform educators on an approach to minimize the STEM gap that disproportionately impacts Black and Latino students by providing a five-step, motivation-based process.
This presentation will also serve as the genuine voice of Black and Latino students, which seems to be absent from research; “it is important that we listen to what they are telling us about who they are, what they think, and what they hope to achieve.” In addition,, “research into the motivation of gifted minority students is so scant that there remain many untapped avenues of investigation as we attempt to develop a more complete understanding of the interaction between giftedness, race and ethnicity.” With an understanding of gifted and talented Black and Latino students’ motivation, matriculation to higher education may improve, STEM engagement may be enhanced, and visibility in STEM careers may increase. Diversifying the STEM field may indirectly impact the socioeconomic status of the Black and Latino populations with opportunities to earn more money, have more consistent employment, and obtain leadership positions.
This presentation is for educators who are attempting to motivate Black and Latino Students to become engaged in or major in STEM. It is for professionals in the STEM industry who are attempting to strengthen and diversify the STEM education-to-career pipeline. And it is for Diversity Managers who are attempting to create a more diverse and inclusive workforce. This presentation will speak to both new and seasoned professionals, because the data serves as the genuine voice of Black and Latino students, which seems to be absent from the research.