Black Women Speak Back, Up, and Out
Chapter Eight: Having Our Say in Higher Education: African American Women’s Stories of “Doing Science” Through Spiritual Capital
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African American Women’s Stories of “Doing Science” Through Spiritual Capital
African American women are one of the fastest growing populations in higher education, yet they remain underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematical (STEM) fields. In 2010, African American women represented 14,858 (15%) of the 100,000 undergraduate women STEM recipients (National Science Foundation, 2013). Research also shows that spirituality affects college students’ academic achievement, engagement, persistence, and retention (Bowman & Small, 2012; Donahoo & Caffey, 2010; Gilford & Reynolds, 2011; Strayhorn, 2011). A growing body of scholarship confirms that African American women rely on faith and prayer to navigate college and/or graduate school (Agosto & Karanxha, 2011/2012; Patton & McClure, 2009). The reliance on the Lord through prayer, faith, and church are important components of spiritual capital (Chaney, 2008a; Friedli, 2001; Wortham, 2007). Yet, there has been little research that examines the connection between spirituality and African American women’s retention and persistence in STEM fields (Jordan, 2006; McPherson, 2012; Warren, 2000). Even fewer studies have explored African American women’s challenges in science majors (Agosto & Karanxha, 2011/2012; Jordan, 2006; Warren, 2000) and the role of spiritual capital in their college student persistence.
To fill these gaps, the purpose of this study is to investigate African American women’s experiences in STEM fields and persisting in the face of adversity. The chapter begins with a review of the literature on church and spirituality in higher ← 93 | 94 →education, followed by a discussion...
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