Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Emison, Gerald A.

Committee Member

French, P. Edward

Committee Member

Rush, Christine L.

Committee Member

Shaffer, Stephen D.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Public Policy and Administration

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of Political Science and Public Administration


The U.S. Department of Labor reports that only 5% of U.S. workers are employed in fields related to science and engineering, yet they are responsible for more than 50% of our sustained economic expansion (U.S Department of Labor, 2007). Furthermore, minorities makeup 0.0025 % (1/400) of that Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) workforce. Methods are currently underway to understand and address the attrition of minority students in the STEM workforce. The problem of underrepresentation of minorities (URMs) in STEM careers continues to result in a “leaky pipeline” where URMs have cited institutional factors such “chilly campus” climates as barriers to persistence and success (Tinto, 1993 Astin, 1993, Seymour & Hewitt, 1997). Despite the “separate but equal” challenge surrounding the early establishment of US educational institutions, the US remains a model for accessible and affordable education. Social equity concerning URM student outcomes in STEM has become a prominent topic of discussion. Researchers and practitioners seek to understand why the growing disparity exists for minority students as this underserved population represents those that higher education has been least successful in educating (Bensimon, 2007). This daunting assertion of disparate educational attainment by race and ethnicity is alarming. In this study the researcher used archived data and web content analysis to conduct a quantitative study to understand the effect of institutional constructs on the graduation rate of African American students pursing engineering degrees. The research model included hypotheses resulting from independent institutional variables of African American engineering students, institutional size and type, institutional endowment and social equity initiatives. The dependent variable of African American engineering student graduation rates was considered in relation to each independent variable. To answer research questions 1 and 2, descriptive statistics were used to analyze data that provided a comprehensive description of the institutions’ resources and social equity initiatives. Spearman’s Rho with ordinal variables and a small number of cases were computed to analyze the data. This analysis revealed a positive correlation between the numbers of social equity initiatives and engineering graduation rates of African American students at PWI southeast land-grant colleges and universities located in the southeastern portion of the U.S. The outcomes of this study help to expand the literature on underrepresented minority (URM) STEM retention in higher education. Understanding the effects of institutional constructs on the success of African American engineering students allows for the implementation of effective intervention strategies that will help to increase the pipeline of well-prepared African American engineers for the global STEM workforce.



persistence||STEM||African American||PWI||equity||attrition||under-represented minority students