2019 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity

Exploring Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Engineering Undergraduate Experiences through Autoethnography

Presented at Track: Special Topic - Identity Technical Session 10

Undergraduate programs in engineering are demanding, time consuming, and inherently social endeavors for young adults. Strong social support networks and communities which foster success are frequently found to increase student retention and perseverance through their engineering degree programs. Students with marginalized identities in higher education are met with additional workloads – managing their social identity, negotiating stereotypes, and finding belonging. Existing research shows that a student’s experience in in higher education is particularly shaped by gender interactions. This has been shown to be particularly true in engineering, whose gender demographics and professional culture is described as hegemonically masculine. Research on gender in engineering has typically framed gender within a rigid, essentialized cisgender binary. Current literature is lacking detail on the processes used by gender diverse students in the transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) community as they navigate the gendered engineering field. We wish to highlight the experiences that undergraduate engineering students have had in relation to their social support and perceptions of gender as it relates to engineering culture within their undergraduate programs. Two students participated in autoethnography as a method of data collection to meet this objective. Collaborative autoethnographic methods position the students as coauthors and coresearchers to ensure the validity of analysis alongside the project’s primary investigators. Using a resiliency framework and critical autoethnographic analysis, the primary focus is on the ways these students have formed support systems and their perception of the social landscape in engineering. Through exploring how students persevere through their programs we may uncover points of intervention to strengthen these support systems.

  1. Ms. Ava Butler Oregon State University [biography]
  2. Dr. Devlin Montfort Oregon State University [biography]
  3. Dr. Qwo-Li Driskill Oregon State University [biography]
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