“We All Belong Here”: Building science identity among first-year engineering students

Grant Recipients

Andrea Jonahs, English Language and Literature

Rania Al-Hammoud, Civil and Environmental Engineering


This project offers a timely contribution to the “leaky pipeline” problem, a metaphor that captures the paucity of women and racialized people in STEM fields.  Current scholarship reveals a multifaceted picture of why these groups continue to be underrepresented in STEM, yet there remains scant research on what specifically instructors can do in the classroom to remedy the issue.  Addressing this gap, this cross-disciplinary project focuses on building “science identity” (Carlone & Johnson, 2007) through high-impact assessments in two concurrent first-year engineering courses.  Science identity helps us understand how resilience in STEM correlates with one’s sense of being a “science person” and belonging to their field, affective domains which are especially critical for underrepresented students (Carlone & Johnson, 2007; Trujillo & Tanner, 2014).  Our project invites first-year engineering students to see themselves as “engineering people,” affirming their belonging in their program, their campus, and as future engineers serving their communities.


Alfred, M. V., Ray, S. M., & Johnson, M. A. (2019). Advancing women of color in STEM: an imperative for US global competitiveness. Advances in Developing Human Resources21(1), 114-132. https://doi.org/10.1177/1523422318814551

Bangera, G., & Brownell, S. E. (2014). Course-based undergraduate research experiences can make scientific research more inclusive. CBE Life Sciences Education, 13(4), 602–606. https://doi.org/10.1187/cbe.14-06-0099

Beasley, M. A., & Fischer, M. J. (2012). Why they leave: The impact of stereotype threat on the attrition of women and minorities from science, math and engineering majors. Social Psychology of Education, 15(4), 427–448. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11218-012-9185-3

Blake‐Beard, S., Bayne, M. L., Crosby, F. J., & Muller, C. B. (2011). Matching by race and gender in mentoring relationships: Keeping our eyes on the prize. Journal of Social issues67(3), 622-643.

Borrego, M., & Newswander, L. K. (2008). Characteristics of successful cross‐disciplinary engineering education collaborations. Journal of Engineering Education97(2), 123-134.

Brannis, J. (n.d.). Enhancing the freshman experience, Fall 2016.  University of Florida. https://www.dso.ufl.edu/documents/nsfp/Brannis.pdf

Carlone, H. B., & Johnson, A. (2007). Understanding the science experiences of successful women of color: Science identity as an analytic lens. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 44(8), 1187–1218. https://doi.org/10.1002/tea.20237

Chen, P., Hernandez, A., & Dong, J. (2015). Impact of collaborative project-based learning on self-efficacy of urban minority students in engineering. Journal of Urban Learning, Teaching, and Research11, 26-39.

Cheney, M. (2016). Undergraduate Professional Development Course: Marketable Skills. In Cahoots: Building Communities To Get It Done, 72-76.  Conference Proceedings.

Cole, D., & Espinoza, A. (2008). Examining the academic success of Latino students in science technology engineering and mathematics (STEM) majors.  Journal of College Student Development, 49(4), 285–300. https://doi.org/10.1353/csd.0.0018

Conderman, G., & Young, N. (2021). Vision boards: Students look into their futures. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 57(2), 90-94.

Connell, M. (2017, April 15). Lack of female role models undermining STEM career paths. Retrieved from: https://www.thebusinesswomanmedia.com/female-undermining-career-paths/

Daane, A. R., Decker, S. R., & Sawtelle, V. (2017). Teaching about racial equity in introductory physics courses. The Physics Teacher55(6), 328-333. https://doi.org/10.1119/1.4999724

Decker, S. R., & Daane, A. R. (2018). Teaching about inequity: Shifts in student views about diversity in physics. 2018 PERC, 108-111. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/002e/fca4445ac988c3faac578b49154080ac7809.pdf

Enriquez, A. G., Lipe, C. B., & Price, B. (2014, June). Enhancing the success of minority STEM students by providing financial, academic, social, and cultural capital. In ASEE annual conference & exposition (Vol. 2014). https://par.nsf.gov/servlets/purl/10026376

Espinosa, L. (2011). Pipelines and pathways: Women of color in undergraduate STEM majors and the college experiences that contribute to persistence. Harvard Educational Review, 81(2), 209–241. https://doi.org/10.17763/haer.81.2.92315ww157656k3u

Estrada, M., Burnett, M., Campbell, A. G., Campbell, P. B., Denetclaw, W. F., Gutiérrez, C. G., ... & Zavala, M. (2016). Improving underrepresented minority student persistence in STEM. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 15(3), es5. https://doi.org/10.1187/cbe.16-01-0038

Faculty of Engineering Statistics. (2020, April 29). Engineering. https://uwaterloo.ca/engineering/about/faculty-engineering-statistics

Finnie, R., & Childs, S. (2018). Who goes into STEM disciplines? Evidence from the youth in transition survey. Canadian Public Policy, 44(S1), S43-S55.

Fry, R., Kennedy, B., & Funk, C. (2021).  STEM jobs see uneven progress in increasing gender, racial and ethnic diversity. Pew Research Center.  https://www.pewresearch.org/science/2021/04/01/stem-jobs-see-uneven-progress-in-increasing-gender-racial-and-ethnic-diversity/

Hazari, Z., Chari, D., Potvin, G., & Brewe, E. (2020). The context dependence of physics identity: Examining the role of performance/competence, recognition, interest, and sense of belonging for lower and upper female physics undergraduates. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 57(10), 1583–1607. https://doi.org/10.1002/tea.21644

Jacobi, M. (1991). Mentoring and Undergraduate Academic Success: A Literature Review. Review of Educational Research, 61(4), 505–532.

Lockwood, P. (2006). “Someone like me can be successful”: Do college students need same-gender role models? Psychology of Women Quarterly, 30(1), 36–46. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1471-6402.2006.00260.x

Momo, B., Hoople, G. D., Chen, D. A., Mejia, J. A., & Lord, S. M. (2020). Broadening the engineering canon: How Culturally Responsive Pedagogies can help educate the engineers of the future. Murmurations 2, 6-21. https://doi.org/10.31946/meee.v2i1.32

Riegle-Crumb, C., King, B., & Irizarry, Y. (2019). Does STEM stand out? Examining racial/ethnic gaps in persistence across postsecondary fields. Educational Researcher, 48(3), 133-144. https://doi.org/10.3102/0013189X19831006

Rodrigues, A. (n.d.). Trends in engineering enrolment and degrees awarded 2015-2019. Engineers Canada. https://engineerscanada.ca/reports/canadian-engineers-for-tomorrow-2019

Ruel, S., & Tajmel, T. (2020). Equity, diversity, and inclusivity at the intersection of STEM and business management in Canadian higher education. Concordia University. https://www.cfbsd.ca/resources/Documents/Final%20Report%20-%20EDI%20in%20STEM%20and%20Business%20Management%20(1).pdf

Stoeger, H., Heilemann, M., Debatin, T., Hopp, M. D. S., Schirner, S., & Ziegler, A. (2021). Nine years of online mentoring for secondary school girls in STEM: An empirical comparison of three mentoring formats. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1483(1), 153–173. https://doi.org/10.1111/nyas.14476

Trujillo, G., & Tanner, K. D. (2014). Considering the role of affect in learning: Monitoring students’ self-efficacy, sense of belonging, and science identity. CBE Life Sciences Education, 13(1), 6–15. https://doi.org/10.1187/cbe.13-12-0241

Waalkes, P. L., Gonzalez, L. M., & Brunson, C. N. (2019). Vision boards and adolescent career counseling: A culturally responsive approach. Journal of Creativity in Mental Health, 14(2), 205-216.

Wall, K. (2019, May 2). Persistence and representation of women in STEM programs. Statistics Canada. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/75-006-x/2019001/article/00006-eng.htm