F7-D&BP2-3 - From Outsider to Advocate: The Experience of Shame as a Minority Student in Engineering Education

3. Research Full Paper
Mackenzie Sharbine , James Huff1, Nicki Sochacka2, Joachim Walther2
1 Harding University
2 University of Georgia

This full paper presents the findings of an interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) study of a student’s experience of shame within an engineering program. Based on findings from engineering education literature, we contend that shame is a powerful emotional experience that permeates the professional formation experience of engineering and counteracts institutional efforts towards inclusive, holistic cultures within the educational experience. These dynamics are heightened for students who are minoritized within engineering education as they are increasingly vulnerable to the messages of exclusion proliferated by shame. By gaining contextual insight into this phenomenon, specifically in minoritized students, engineering educators might better craft strategies to cultivate inclusion in their programs and emotional resilience in their individual students as a part of their journey to being a professional.

To this end, the overarching research question of this paper: How do individual students from minoritized social groups in the United States psychologically experience shame in the context of engineering education? Based on literature from psychology and sociology, we refer to shame as the socio-psychological interaction between cultural expectations and individuals’ internal evaluations of meeting these expectations.

This paper shows the findings of an IPA study on a single case of an American Indian, female student that majored in computer engineering at a private, faith-based, teaching-focused university in the United States. In this interview, the participant, pseudonym Mano, discussed how her experiences going into engineering education interacted with a struggle to belong and how, ultimately the importance of being a representative of her group motivated her to find adaptive ways to navigate engineering education. We analyzed the interview transcript using IPA, a qualitative research method that we used to extensively examine personal experience then report complex patterns in coherent ways. Through this analysis, we generated three overarching themes to provide a nuanced description of our participant’s experience with shame in the context of engineering education:

In the forthcoming paper, we will use these themes as a framework to discuss how this particular student’s experience can be used to gain insight how students generally experience shame. Additionally, we will discuss the role of belongingness in the engineering education space and explore both this student’s particular experience and applications for patterns in which students experience the interactions of belongingness and shame. In summary, the contextually rich findings from this case will connect to a broader discussion of inclusion and diversity in engineering education by closely examining how the messages that the individual student receives affects their perception of their experience throughout the discipline.