Understanding microaggressions in engineering education

CATEGORIES: News, Research
Students at graduation
Photo by Charles DeLoye

Gloria Jones-Johnson and Scott Feinstein will research microaggressions in engineering programs through a National Science Foundation funded project led by Cristina Poleacovschi, assistant professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering.

Gloria Jones-Johnson
Gloria Jones-Johnson

In an effort to understand and change the low representation of gender and racial minorities in engineering education, the research will study subtle behaviors, known as microaggressions, that students, especially those in a minority gender or race, experience in engineering education.

The research will investigate the effect of these microaggressions on students’ experience, success and persistence in engineering programs. The microaggressions will be studied and compared between Iowa State University, as a predominantly white educational setting, and North Carolina A&T, as a historically black college.

Jones-Johnson, University Professor and professor of sociology, contributes expertise on the intersectionality of students’ unique identity based on both race and gender, as well as quantitative methodological expertise in survey research.

Scott Feinstein
Scott Feinstein

Feinstein, assistant professor of political science, will focus on drawing attention to the social and political implications of microaggression.

“We ask whether microaggressions, an injustice in their own right, have an effect on STEM education retention and what that may mean on a macro level,” Feinstein said. “For example, what happens when a democracy and economy increasingly dependent upon STEM innovations is systematically denied diversity and creative labor?”