The role of engineering technology as a pathway for African Americans into the field of engineering
Dempsey, Ron D.
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Engineering Technology serves as a potential pathway for African Americans into engineering. Yet research and data demonstrate that African Americans are severely underrepresented in the field of engineering. This study examines the role that engineering technology plays in the field of engineering and its impact on African Americans as a potential pathway in the field. The study employs conflict sociology and Critical Race Theory as theoretical frameworks and uses a mixed methodology for data collection. This study’s primary data are derived from the 2014 Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and from a survey and interviews of engineering technology faculty and alumni from Purdue University and Southern Polytechnic State University. Pearson’s Chi-Square Tests of Independence are conducted on data derived from these sources. Descriptive analysis is conducted on additional data collected from institutional curriculums and state licensing sites. This study has the following major findings. First, African Americans graduate at a higher percentage rate from 4-year bachelor degree engineering technology programs than from 4-year bachelor degree engineering programs. Second, engineering technology alumni, including African Americans graduates, chose engineering technology due to issues of program costs, program flexibility with employment, and the hands-on pedagogy of engineering technology. Third, though these engineering technology graduates were employed as engineers and not as engineering technologists, barriers exist for graduates of engineering technology programs such as achieving licensing as a professional engineering, obtaining federal engineering jobs, and being perceived a subordinate to those with engineering degrees. The study concludes that engineering technology is a potential pathway into the field of engineering for many individuals, especially African Americans, and, therefore, recommends it be given equal status alongside engineering programs with appropriate curriculum changes. The advantages of such an engineering educational system include the accommodations of multiple learning styles (applied versus theoretical, abstract versus embedded mathematics), an educational system that is more correctly aligned with the industry, a flattening of the engineering hierarchy, and most importantly, a legitimized and equal pathway into engineering that better aligns with the life experiences of African Americans.