Racial Inequality Exists in Spite of Over-Representation: The Case of Asian-American Students in Engineering Education

Abstract
While Asian American students are not under-represented in engineering, they are still members of a minority population. In the last three years we interviewed 165 engineering students in a large scale research project that identifies factors leading to differential rates of student success among four minority populations including Asian Americans. The Asian American participants reported experiences with racially-based discrimination that were related to the most common stereotypes of Asians, including forever foreigners and the model minority. Participants’ response to discrimination experiences were usually denying that the experience had happened, dismissing their feelings, and making excuses for inappropriate racially-based behavior. The failure to recognize the experiences could be the result of low levels of racial identity development. Dismissing feelings and making excuses for racially-based behavior may be participants living out one aspect of the model minority stereotype. The message from the Asian American participants is that over-representation does not remove racially-based stereotyping and discrimination in our society. Five recommendations for making engineering institutions more equitable are presented.

Available from: ASEE Archive

Trytten, D. A., A. W. Lowe and S. E. Walden (2009). Racial Inequality Exists in Spite of Over-Representation: The Case of Asian-American Students in Engineering Education. Proceedings of 2009 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition, Austin, TX.

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