Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Peering into the culture of a civil engineering discipline and finding the white rabbit
by Gorman, Sharon, Ed.D., Northern Arizona University, 2014, 299; 3621094
Abstract (Summary)

The representation of female students and students of color within the civil engineering discipline has been relatively stagnant during the last thirty years. Leaky pipeline approaches attempt to provide measures or programs that try to reduce the exiting of female students or students of color without necessarily addressing the social complexities of the environment itself. This ethnographically informed case study provides an explanation of social complexities that may prevent female students and students of color from fully fitting inside their civil engineering discipline.

Specifically, this study explored how female students and students of color navigated their civil engineering discipline as juniors or seniors at a medium-sized public university in the United States Southwest. During 2013, five staff members (all female) and eight students—both male and female—were interviewed. In addition, the researcher observed two upper division classes for a month and half, three times a week. The researcher also observed public spaces inside the engineering building. Finally, the researcher reviewed and analyzed public websites, syllabi, degree progression plans, and newsletters to further support findings.

Using a Grounded Theory approach and informed by critical and post-structural feminist and race theory, the researcher adapted a Grounded Theory Paradigm Model (Strauss & Corbin, 1990) to expose contradictions for explaining the social complexities of the context. The researcher found that students who identified outside the dominant white male role saw nuances of the context because of their Border Identities. Border identities, which evolved as a result of students coming from a different ethnicity, community background, and gender, allowed contradictions to be exposed and examined. As a result, the researcher discovered that highly regulatory educational contexts such as a civil engineering discipline support rituals leading to professionalization of students (in this case, as future engineers). Professionalization, which espouses values of sameness as related to the individual, in fact penalizes "the different." Through the professionalization of students, values of hard work, productivity, meritocracy, and effort intend to homogenize the experience of civil engineering students across the board, despite differences of identity, in order to maintain and preserve the dominant white male context.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Castagno, Angelina
Commitee: Bero, Bridget, Foley, JeanAnn, Riemer, Frances
School: Northern Arizona University
Department: Educational Leadership
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: DAI-A 75/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Educational sociology, Civil engineering, Higher education
Keywords: Border identites, Male/female binary, Professionalization, Ritualization, Sameness, Students of color
Publication Number: 3621094
ISBN: 9781303919541
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