Journal of Research in Technical Careers


Hispanic-serving institution, persistence in STEM, STEM retention, undergraduate biology majors, underrepresented minority students


Biology | Science and Mathematics Education | Vocational Education


To promote diversity within the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce, we must identify factors that influence or hinder historically underrepresented minority (URM) students’ persistence to degrees in STEM. We documented potential factors that influence students’ persistence in an undergraduate biology program and created a 14-item, Likert-scale instrument. We recruited 137 undergraduate biology majors at a Hispanic-serving institution in Texas to report which factors they found influential in their decision to remain enrolled in their degree programs. We used a modified social cognitive career theory model of career choice to guide interpretation of the reported influences and identify patterns in responses. We documented three highly influential factors for all students: personal motivation, potential learning experiences, and job opportunities with the job opportunities showing a significant difference (P=0.036) between White and URM student groups. We also found a trend (P=0.056) indicating White students were more influenced by role models and mentors than URM students. Our findings suggest that personal motivation and potential job opportunities are the most influential factors driving students to seek educational opportunities that could lead to STEM careers. However, access to a diverse pool of role models also has the potential to provide positive impacts on student persistence in STEM.