Stacey Williams (2020). Persistence Among Minority STEM Majors: A Phenomenological Study

The United States needs to increase the number of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) graduates to remain competitive in the global market and maintain national security. Minority students, specifically African-American and Hispanic, are underrepresented in STEM fields. As the minority population continues to grow it is essential that higher education institutions improve minority students’ persistence in STEM education. This study examined the problem of minority students’ lack of persistence in STEM programs, focusing and building on the theoretical framework for student retention. The purpose of this qualitative transcendental phenomenological study was to describe the lived experiences that minority students perceived as contributing to their persistence in STEM. The central research question was: What are the lived experiences of minority STEM students that have contributed to their persistence in a STEM program? The researcher interviewed 12 minority STEM students and uncovered 10 themes: 1) Childhood experiences and interests; 2) Positive educational experiences in secondary school; 3) Self-motivation; 4) Positive experiences with professors; 5) Family encouragement and values; 6) Lack of minorities; 7) Lack of educational preparation; 8) The need for financial assistance; 9) Clubs and organizations; and 10) Friends within the major. The significance of these findings is the potential to produce changes in curricula, programs, and retention methods in hopes of improving minority students’ persistence in STEM programs.

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