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Examining Racial Bias, Campus Climate, and STEM Outcomes among African American Science Students

Fri, March 22, 7:45 to 9:15am, Baltimore Convention Center, Floor: Level 1, Exhibit Hall B

Integrative Statement

African Americans represent perhaps the most underrepresented of racial/ethnic groups in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) today. Racial bias is likely to weaken scientific identity, efficacy, and career aspirations by triggering and perpetuating threatening stereotypes that African Americans do not have the capacity and skills to become scientists. Dasgupta’s (2011) stereotype inoculation model proposes that environments characterized by majorities of marginalized group members serve to reduce the negative effects of stereotypes, protect identity development, and facilitate self-efficacy and career-related motivation. The present study examined whether racial bias, campus climate, and STEM outcomes differed among African American science students attending a Predominately White Institution (PWI) versus a Historically Black College/University (HBCU). This study also explored whether the associations between racial bias, campus, climate and STEM outcomes differed by institution type (PWI versus HBCU).

Data were drawn from the first wave of a longitudinal study examining identity development among African American science students. Participants (N = 160) self-identified as science majors and attended a PWI or HBCU that were located near one another in the Southeast United States. During the first wave of data collection, participants completed self-reported questionnaires via Qualtrics. The Campus Climate Questionnaire (Reid & Radhakrishnan, 2003) was used to assess general campus climate (alpha = .75), in which higher scores reflect more positive campus climate and racial bias on campus (alpha = .85), in which higher scores reflect more racial tension on campus. Perceived discrimination was assessed with the Everyday Discrimination Scale (Williams, Yan, Jackson, & Anderson, 1997) and higher scores indicated more perceived discrimination (alpha = .90). STEM outcomes included scientific identity, measured with the scientific identity scale (Chemers et al., 2010; alpha = .91), STEM self-efficacy (Chemers et al., 2010; alpha = .94), and STEM career commitment (alpha = .95).

Institution type differences in racial bias, campus climate, stereotype threat and STEM outcomes were examined with t-tests. Results showed that students who attended the PWI perceived more racial discrimination, more racial tension on campus, more stereotype threat and felt less positive about the campus climate compared to students who attended the HBCU. There were no significant differences by institution type in scientific identity, STEM self-ffficacy, or STEM career commitment. Next, hierarchical multiple regression analyses examined whether racial bias, campus climate, and stereotype threat predicted STEM outcomes and tested whether these associations were moderated by institution type. Results showed that more positive perceptions of campus climate was a significant predictor of scientific identity, STEM self-efficacy, and STEM career commitment. Additionally, racial discrimination was associated with greater STEM career commitment. Discussion will focus on the possibility that although racial discrimination is undoubtedly problematic for mental health and well-being, it may also serve as a motivator for students who demonstrate resiliency and become more committed to STEM careers in the face of negative racial experiences.

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