Native Hawaiians in Engineering: A Path the Professoriate















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American Society for Engineering Education



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In this paper and presentation, a research team of engineers and educators from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa will present early findings from a three-phase, mixed-methods study where they sought to understand the gaps in progression of Native Hawaiian students to an academic career in engineering. The study is grounded in Tinto’s integration framework and Bean’s student attrition models, in which authors look at persistence in higher education. Tinto and Bean both suggested that students are more likely to persist in college if they are connected to both the academic as well as social life. Where both Tinto and Bean were primarily studying undergraduates, this study further explores the engineering graduate students' persistence, motivation, and the idea of connection to the Hawaiian culture. Furthermore, the study seeks to extends Bean’s work regarding higher education faculty where he suggested that intrinsic factors such as being true to self and valuing of students were essential characteristics for new faculty. One of the most underrepresented ethnic groups in engineering may be Native Hawaiians (NH). According to the 2011 US Census, the combined working population of NHs, Pacific Islanders, and ‘Other Race’ (grouped by U.S. Census due to small sample size) represents 4.6% of the total U.S. workforce but only 1.4% of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) occupations. This makes NHs and Pacific Islanders the most underrepresented ethnic groups in the nation in STEM employment. Additionally, the U.S. Census national data indicates that only 700 single-race NHs or other Pacific Islanders received doctoral degree in science, engineering, and health fields in 2008. First, selected data are shared from a 43-item undergraduate survey administered to engineering students asking about background and preparation to pursue engineering as a major (N=168). Barriers, support systems, financial aid, and self-perception of success between NH students (n=17) and non-NH students (n=151) differences and similarities will be discussed. Second, major themes that emerged from structured interviews with 6 of 8 NH engineering graduate students are presented, including a sense of belonging to their chosen major, past performance in academics, and family support, important factors for degree completion in underrepresented groups such as Hawaiians, Filipinos, African-American and Blacks Hispanics, and women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Third, a short description of a six-workshop series called A‘o in Engineering and research and teaching opportunities designed to support interested senior and graduate engineering students (N=20) will follow. The authors end with a proposed education model to increase NH career interest in the engineering professoriate.



Hawaiians, Engineering



16 pages


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Attribution 3.0 United States

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