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Date of Award
Department or Program Affiliation
Master of Science (MS)
DeBari, Susan M., 1962-
Kraft, Kaatje van der Hoeven
I conducted a mixed methods study of geoscience identity in undergraduate students to examine the cultural and social aspects of geoscience degree programs. White students are overrepresented in geoscience, and a priority of anti-racism efforts in the field is listening to the experiences of students who are Black, Indigenous, or people of color (BIPOC) to better inform equity and inclusion goals. Structural racism in geoscience pushes BIPOC students out of the field, and it can be better understood by studying socially constructed aspects of learning such as geoscience identity. This study is the first to measure geoscience identity with a large enough sample size to determine statistical significance across race and gender demographics. Using a mixed methods approach, I adapted validated survey tools from other STEM fields to create a geoscience identity survey and distributed it to undergraduate geoscience majors at 99 universities. To ascertain the aspects of a geoscience degree program experience that influence students’ geoscience identities, the survey also asked students to rate a list of common experiences known to influence geoscience identity and share experiences through open-ended prompts. Results from 139 respondents indicated that, like in other STEM fields, white students identify as geoscientists more than BIPOC students (p = 0.03). Despite low response rates from white male students, findings were still significant, with the group showing the strongest geoscience identity of all other groups, primarily in the “performance” and “competence” domains of geoscience identity. This is a departure from other research in STEM that found racial disparities in the “recognition” domain of science identity. Thematic analysis of open-ended survey questions showed that BIPOC students faced more structural barriers and microaggressions than their white peers throughout their completion of a geoscience undergraduate degree. Some students of underrepresented racial/ethnic backgrounds reported feeling like they didn’t belong in the field because nobody in their department shared their identities. This contrasts with white students, who were more likely to have positive, formative experiences and feel a sense of community and belonging in their department or in the field in general. From this study’s findings, I make recommendations for geoscience departments committed to anti-racism to improve equity and inclusion in their learning spaces.
science identity, geoscience identity, race, gender, higher education, undergraduate learning, STEM equity, anti-racism, thematic analysis
Western Washington University
Subject – LCSH
Geology--Study and teaching (Higher); Minority college students; Minorities in science; Minorities--Education (Higher); Racism in higher education
Copying of this document in whole or in part is allowable only for scholarly purposes. It is understood, however, that any copying or publication of this document for commercial purposes, or for financial gain, shall not be allowed without the author’s written permission.
Rowan, Willa, "A Mixed-Methods Study of Geoscience Identity, Race/Ethnicity, and Gender in Senior Undergraduate Geoscience Majors" (2023). WWU Graduate School Collection. 1237.