Students of color struggle to find community in their STEM classes at a predominantly white institution.Image By: Max Homstad
STEM students of color seek community on campus
Students of color sitting in a chemistry class might struggle not only with challenging coursework but with finding someone else who shares their identity.
Students of color on a predominantly white campus reported struggling to find a sense of community, especially, experts say, in science, technology, engineering and math fields.
UW-Madison’s student body is 73 percent white, which is relatively less diverse than other colleges across the nation. This lack of diversity may impact the learning and social experience of STEM students with different racial and ethnic backgrounds.
“Research shows that underrepresented scholars in STEM can often struggle with a sense of belonging, STEM identity and self-efficacy,” said Director of the Office of STEM Initiatives at the Division of Diversity, Equity and Educational Achievement Emilie Hofacker.
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, seven out of 10 STEM field positions in the country are held by white, non-Latinx people. Black, Native American and Latinx workers are less likely to hold STEM positions compared to the overall workforce.
And even though women make up half of the U.S. workforce, they earn, on average, 14 percent less than men and hold less than a quarter of positions across STEM fields.
There are tangible challenges in learning experiences for underrepresented students, according to Dr. Gloria Mari-Beffa, associate dean for STEM fields in the College of Letters and Science, who has researched the topic.