GOLDEN, Colo., April 15, 2014 –Colorado School of Mines Liberal Arts and International Studies professors Jessica Rolston and Juan Lucena are conducting interviews with low-income and first-generation students (LIFGs) to help make them visible and relevant to engineering education reform. Rolston and Lucena argue that little is known about these students as engineers, their experiences in college and their engagements with the curriculum.
“When you look at the way the National Science Foundation defines diversity, it’s entirely by gender, race and ethnicity and disability. Those things are important, but Juan and I were concerned that socio-economic class is nowhere in that definition of diversity,” Rolston said. “We don’t know much about students who come from first-generation backgrounds to go to college.”
Currently LIFG research is grounded in a deficiency model, which focuses on what students lack, such as money or self-confidence.
“We acknowledge all of the barriers and challenges that are unique to this group of students,” Rolston said. “We also think there are strengths that are relevant to engineering.”
Rolston and Lucena are at the beginning of a two-year process, during which they will interview 12 students for two hours, three times each semester. Most of these students are non-traditional, including some single parents.
These interviews will help identify students’ knowledge and experiences outside the classroom, including ones they develop in their lives and at work.
“Based on all our student research, we’re hopeful that we can provide case studies that professors can use to change concepts, so that it’s more concrete for all students,” Rolston said.