Teacher Education, Educational Leadership & Policy ETDs

Publication Date



Without the proper academic preparation and cultural capital, underrepresented minority students may not find their path to pursuing science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) degrees. To gain a better understanding of how underrepresented minority students experienced college success, this study examined how they entered a STEM program of study and persisted in the program beyond their first year at the university. Three important contexts presented the greatest barriers to persistence: low socioeconomic status, first generation status, and under-preparation in math. Participants within these contexts were enabled to find a path to attend college and persist with targeted support and advice from cultural capital agents' in secondary education and college. These cultural capital agents advocated for students, advised them towards STEM academic enrichment opportunities, and developed the students' cultural capital. The support of the cultural capital agents coupled with student engagement in high impact socio-academic activities (for example: college transition programs, research assistantships, membership in student academic organizations) helped students to persist in STEM. By providing focused educational efforts designed to support underrepresented minority students to enter STEM fields of study and to persist towards timely degree completion, we can create a more diverse STEM workforce.'


STEM, College Success, Persistence, Underrepresented minorities, science, technology, engineering, math, STEM degree, cultural capital, high school preparation

Document Type




Degree Name

Educational Leadership

Level of Degree


Department Name

Teacher Education, Educational Leadership & Policy

First Advisor

Borden, Allison

First Committee Member (Chair)

Woodrum, Arlie

Second Committee Member

Florez, Viola

Third Committee Member

Boverie, Patricia