A lot of minority students are intimidated by the fact that there are so few teachers or fellow students in STEM like them. This lack of support from peers who share in their background may have been a major downer for their studies. This would explain the statistic showing that only 31 percent of underrepresented students starting off studying STEM finished the degree.
Penny Rheingans, director for the Center for Women in Technology at the University of Maryland--Baltimore County, explains the thoughts that many minority students have while pursuing their STEM degree.
Students that struggle in class with professors and fellow students surrounding them that don’t look like them, it’s easy for them to them to rationalize, "maybe I'm not supposed to be here, either," Rheingans said.
Luckily, there is a lot of hope for Latino, African-American, women, and other minorities while pursuing a STEM degree or in the STEM workplace. Currently there are programs being put in place to partner with the organizations and companies that reside where students live, train teachers to fill the STEM education gaps, and think beyond the classroom when it comes to putting STEM ideas to work.
Examples of these include internships for the U.S. Department of Energy are being put in place, spurring aspiring STEM students to put their knowledge to the test outside of the classroom. Victor Technologies’ is inspiring students interested in mechanics to create new welding and cutting creations with their “A Cut Above” contest. Richfield STEM School’s “Make it Move” event put teacher’s knowledge and teaching skills to the test for hundreds of excited kids to learn.
If the U.S. can continue to follow these events and ideas, it will be no time at all before all kids, minorities or not, can see the endless opportunities that lie within STEM.
For more information, visit these websites: The Washington Post, Yahoo! News, Energy.gov, The Brown Daily Herald, and Plant Service’s articles “Victor Technologies’ contest looking for talented mechanics students” and “Video: Example of how teachers should approach STEM.”