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Are you African or African-American? Exploring the Identity Experiences of Female STEM Students Born in Africa Now Living in America

David M Sparks

Abstract


Amongst the participants of a qualitative study of Black female students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) were two individuals who were born on the African continent. These students moved to the United States at a young age and are now United States citizens—one pursuing a graduate degree and the other an undergraduate degree, both in a STEM field. This brief case study will explore the thoughts of the two students with regard to how they, despite being typically underrepresented in STEM in the United States, (1) describe their experiences as college students; (2) come to view themselves in the African-American community in the United States; and (3) compare to Black students who were born in the United States or are international students from Africa. Using their own words, this article explains how their African heritage has shaped their development as STEM students and solidified their place in a STEM education program in the United States. These students are uniquely positioned to understand both an African and African-American perspective. Their insights can help to illuminate how the United States can attract and retain African as well as African-American students in the fields of STEM, and extend that knowledge to other variations of ethnicity and experience.


Keywords


minorities, STEM, gender, underrepresentation, identity, intersectionality

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