Theses Doctoral

Pathways into STEM Among Low-Income, Urban Immigrant Emergent Bilingual/Multilingual Young Adults: Opportunity, Access, and Persistence

Heyman, Jeremy Benjamin

This project builds upon the author's multi-year critical ethnographic study of urban immigrant students and their trajectories into STEM (science, technology, engineering, or mathematics) from high school through their transition to college. At its core, this study investigates the paths of over three dozen newcomer immigrant English language learner students in high-poverty urban neighborhoods who are not generally considered “legitimate contenders” for Bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields on the basis of such characteristics as test scores, high school and prior preparation, and age. The students are followed through their high school experiences, their transition to college, and through their current progress in college, with explicit attention paid to key mediating experiences and relationships in and especially outside of the classroom that were associated with their toward persistence and success. Thick description and analysis of the students and their experiences, among those who persisted as well as the minority who switched out of STEM majors, helps to demonstrate a proof-of-concept of these students’ ability to succeed while painting a comprehensive picture of their march forward to degrees in STEM fields against a backdrop of economic, linguistic, and other barriers to entry and success. Using a framework of social and capital and resilience theories, this work has uncovered a number of themes and factors that will help educators to better understand the evolution of these traditionally marginalized students' STEM-related interests, skills, and career plans. The findings center around students’ exposure to research internships and other STEM enrichment and outreach experiences, long-term mentoring and other key relationships, and integration of STEM and college access efforts in setting them up for a successful transition to college, as well as an emphasis on the importance of students’ calling upon their own resilience and other strengths and prior experiences. The results provide novel insights and recommendations for improving access and persistence in STEM among students in areas of concentrated poverty who are also struggling with mastering a new language and a host of other challenges.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Science Education
Thesis Advisors
Emdin, Christopher
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 22, 2016