One of the reasons I wasn’t so ready to give up on my PhD program earlier this fall and summer was because I knew I’d have the opportunity to work on my own research.
As I wondered “should I stay or should I go?” I talked to friends within the program and others outside education. I came to realize that working on a research project that was not quantitative based and focused on a topic of which I was genuinely interested would help me stick it out. I’d been a research assistant for the first two years and liked it, but I was also tired of trying to figure out how to do something using SPSS (a statistical program) and then not knowing how to interpret the results. I was also working on projects directed by someone else… which is definitely not the same as doing something you want to do.
I decided on doing my 299 research project on Latina science, mathematics and engineering undergraduate students. I wanted to know why some students stayed in the SME fields while others switched major. Half of my interest in this area comes from my interest in the retention and persistence of Latino student I’ve had since I worked as the director of MEChA Calmecac (counseling and mentorship program at UCLA). The other half comes my current work with science students.
One of the first things I need to do when I start my project is read the literature and get a sense of what is and is not known. There’s a lot that is not known in this area which is cool because that means I can add something with my research.
The following are brief passages and things that stuck out when doing my literature review.
“[G]irls’ self-esteem drops precipitously after adolescence, with the drop for Latinas being the greatest” (p. 255).
Leslie, L., McClure, G.T. & Oaxaca, R.L. (1998). Women and minorities in science and engineering: A life sequence analysis. The Journal of Higher Education, 69 (3), 239-276.
“[I]t felt good to be in a room with so many Chicanos. I felt strong. In fact, I go every week now just because of the strength I get from being around my people. It’s tough going to class and being the only Chicano. If it wasn’t for MEChA, I don’t know if I’d still be here.”
“MEChA was vital to their persistence at the university, and, like their families, MEChA was an important source of cultural nourishment from which to draw strength.”
González, K. P. (2003). Campus culture and the experiences of Chicano students in a predominantly white university. Urban Education, 37(2), 193-218.
“[E]xperiences of discrimination have a depressing effect on latino students’ feeling of attachment to the institution.”
Hurtado, S., Carter, D. F. & Spuler, S. (1996). Latino student transition to college: Assessing difficulties and factors in successful college adjustment. Research in Higher Education, 37(2), 135-157.
“According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Latino students have the lowest completion rate of all college students, with only 32 percent finishing.This compares with completion rates of 34 percent for African Americans, 47 percent for Asian Americans, and 48 percent for whites.”
Torres, V. (2003). Mi casa is not exactly like your house: A window onto the experience of Latino students. About Campus, 8 (2), 2-7.
“The 31.6% increase in Latino PhDs during [1994-2001] is particularly impressive when compared to the slight decrease in the total number of science and engineering PhDs. However, as mentioned earlier, the number of doctorates in science and engineering awarded to Latino students in 2001 still numbered only in the hundreds.”
“Among Latinos, about a third of all PhDs and more than 40% of science and engineering PhDs granted in 2001 went to holders of temporary visas.”
Chapa, J. & De La Rosa, B. (2006). The problematic pipeline: Demographic trends and Latino participation in graduate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics programs. Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, 5 (3), 203-221.
“Because nearly half of all Latinos in California are immigrants from Latin America, it is instructive to compare this physician-to-population ratio with those of Latin American countries. Some Latin American countries have physician-to-population ratios close to that of non-Latino California: Cuba at 1:226, Uruguay at 1:268, and Argentina at 1:364. Mexico has a ratio that is nearly twice that of non-Latino California, at 1:593. Latin America’s overall ratio is 1:649. California’s Latino physician-to-population ratio, at 1:2,893, exceeds the ratio of every Latin American country…
Hayes-Bautista, D. E., Hsu, P., Hayes-Bautista, M., Stein, R. M., Dowling, P., Beltran, R., & Villagomez, J. (2000). Latino physician supply in California: Sources, locations, and projections. Academic Medicine, 75 (7), 727-736.
“If one looks at Hispanic representation in STEM fields, Hispanic faculty represented from 2% to 4% of all faculty.”
Millett, C. M. & Nettles, M. T. (2006). Expanding and cultivating the Hispanic STEM doctoral workforce: Research on doctoral student experiences. Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, 5 (3), 258-287.
“It is intersting to note that although females earned higher [math/science] grades in high school than did males, were somewhat more liley to attend four-year colleges and universities, were somewhat more likely to take advantage of minority support systems — all of which contributed to greater science ambition — they still had less science ambition by the end of the sophomore year than did males.”
Grandy, J. (1998). Persistence in science of high-ability minority students: Results of a longitudinal study. The Journal of Higher Education, 69 (6), 589-620.
You know what happened when I was doing all this reading and writing at the last minute (I still need to work on that bad habit)?
I was glad friends convinced me not to leave the program. As much as I grumble and claim that PhD programs are for suckers, I’m still a nerd deep down inside who thinks that research is fun, loves to write and can’t get enough of the methods section in qualitative papers.