Identity, Motivation, and Resilience: The Example of Black College Students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics
Despite the growing presence of Black professionals in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields over the past 30 years, their numbers remain relatively small (Freeman & Taylor, 2008; Hill, Corbett, & Rose, 2010). A contributing structural factor is the quality of African Americans1 precollege math and science experiences and preparation relative to non-underrepresented groups ( Johnson & Watson, 2005). However, structural factors do not explain the entire picture, nor do they explain why Black college students’ rates of pursuit of and persistence in STEM areas are lower than non-underrepresented groups’, even when accounting for social class and academic preparation factors (Maton & Hrabowski, 2004). Our chapter goal is to outline psychological, motivational, and contextual factors associated with Black student achievement in predominantly White universities, particularly in STEM fields. We take a risk and resilience approach in considering within-group variation in motivation and persistence. We describe Black students’ normative experience of racial stigma on campus (i.e., personal discrimination, negative campus racial climate) as a risk factor for decreases in academic identification and subsequent motivation and achievement, as well as the unique ways stigma may emerge within STEM contexts. At the same time, we consider person-level characteristics-including those related to students’ racial and gender identities-that may serve to promote academic identification and motivation and help students maintain strong academic identity in the face of stigmatizing experiences. Finally, we consider how contextlevel characteristics-including institutional resources, opportunities, barriers, or constraints-relate to students’ motivation and achievement in the face of stigma experiences.