"I wanted to follow in her footsteps": Activating, Nurturing, and Extending Community Cultural Wealth for Students of Color Entering STEM Pathways

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Teachers College Record



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Background/Context: Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) occupations account for the second-fastest growing sector in the United States. As racial and ethnic “minorities” become the college-age majority, there is a need to facilitate access and success for Students of Color in STEM fields. Purpose: The present study seeks to investigate the ways in which important others shape the initial educational and career aspirations of Students of Color pursuing STEM pathways. Research Design: This study draws on a mixed-methods research design using both survey and interview data to investigate similar and different facets of the college and career decision-making processes for Students of Color in STEM fields. Results: Findings from this study suggest that as Students of Color narrow their decisions to attend college, select a STEM major, and pursue a STEM career, the network of people who influence these decisions widens beyond parents and family members to include K-12 teachers and other institutional agents. This network, then, activates, nurtures, and/or extends the community cultural wealth for Students of Color entering STEM pathways. Conclusion/Recommendations: Our findings suggest that at every decision-making point (e.g., going to college, selecting a STEM major, and pursuing a STEM career), family members (e.g., parents, siblings, and extended family) directly or indirectly shaped the STEM pathways of Students of Color. As such, we argue that families cannot be ignored in the pursuit toward diversifying the STEM workforce.


Science and Mathematics Education



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