Saturday, February 18, 2017
Exhibit Hall (Hynes Convention Center)
Maralee Mayberry, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL
Background: According to the 2010 State of Higher Education for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Persons, Sexual and Gender Minority (SGM) students are more likely to indicate deleterious experiences and academic outcomes and less welcoming campus climates based on their identity, and are at the highest risk for experiencing conduct that interferes with their ability to live and learn on campus. Strong faculty-student relationships may mediate these negative encounters and reduce the pressure on SGM students to compartmentalize their identities by being “out” only in certain environments. Required intro courses for STEM disciplines may function as barriers rather than as gateways. Faculty-student interactions can be pivotal. We know that SGM students may have difficulty finding faculty mentors who can serve as role models, and they report stress about reaching out when they perceive faculty as uninterested or unsupportive. Given the increase in individuals identifying as SGM in STEM disciplines, it is vital that we examine the role faculty mentoring plays in shaping SGM student experiences and their persistence in STEM programs. Methods: Our case study included in-depth interviews with SGM and non-SGM chemistry faculty who teach required intro courses at a R1 university in the southeastern United States. We performed thematic analysis of the interview data. To be systematic and rigorous, we “immersed” ourselves in the data and read the transcripts multiple times, using an emic approach to assign initial codes. We revised the codes as themes emerged until reaching data saturation. Results: Preliminary findings from our case study suggest SGM STEM faculty are a) more aware of resources within the department and university for SGM students and more likely to help students obtain them; b) more likely to discuss classroom climate issues with their TA; and, c) more aware of cultural norms in chemistry that disadvantage SGM individuals. Non-SGM STEM faculty are a) less aware of the existence of SGM students in their department and classes; b) less likely to confront students using homophobic language in the classroom; and, c) less aware of the value of using gender-neutral inclusive language with students. Conclusion: Our analysis has allowed us to recommend specific areas of attention for STEM faculty and programs as they work toward interventions to enhance SGM undergraduates’ development in STEM. We argue that an inclusive STEM program culture characterized by strong faculty mentoring reduces the negative climate and isolation that SGM undergraduates may experience.