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Catalysts and Barriers Faced by Native American Engineering Undergraduate Students in Arizona | Journal of Civil Engineering Education


Engineering schools have been unable to recruit and retain Native American students at the same rate as other students. Consequently, the Native American representation in engineering has been declining over the years in Arizona, even though the state ranks third in the number of degrees earned in the US by Native Americans. To understand the barriers and catalysts faced by Native American students in engineering, the authors interviewed 29 undergraduate Native American students from various engineering majors at three Arizona universities. The results were compared to factors identified by the Millennium Falcon Persistence Model. Family support and institutional support were mentioned by the students as catalysts to success in higher education, whereas themes related to tribal community support were brought up as barriers. Specifically, the students expressed concerns with the perceived lack of engineering jobs on the reservations and the negative environmental impact of the engineering industry. The authors discussed the implications of such findings to engineering schools and the role of the university in supporting Native American students’ desire to give back to their communities.

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