Evangeleen Faith Pattison

Evangeleen Faith PattisonInfluences of Race and Ethnicity

Evangeleen Pattison (City College, 2010), now in a sociology Ph.D. program at the University of Texas at Austin, is one of five CUNY students to win 2011 awards under the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program. It is geared to assuring the vitality and diversity of America’s scientific and engineering workforce. She received a $30,000 NSF stipend in each of three years, plus her university will receive $10,500 a year to support her work. She will explore how race and ethnicity factor into widely varying higher-education completion rates among science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) majors.

In general, students who declare STEM majors are less likely to finish than those in other fields, but non-Asian racial and ethnic minorities have the highest attrition rates, she explained. Although 33 percent of whites and 42 percent of Asians who start STEM degrees complete them, there’s far greater attrition in other groups, according to 2010 statistics from UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute. Approximately 22 percent of Hispanics, 18 percent of African-Americans and 19 percent of Native Americans who initially declare a STEM major finish those degrees.

“I will investigate what happens to underrepresented minorities who declare a STEM major in college but do not complete a STEM degree. Specifically, I will focus on the social processes operating within the undergraduate universities these students attend,” Pattison said.

“These disparities are troubling on equity grounds but also problematic in terms of sustaining the country’s STEM labor force, given that underrepresented minorities will soon constitute the majority of the population [by 2050, the Census Bureau predicts]. Many researchers have thoroughly investigated the role of academic preparation on STEM outcomes. Developing a more complete understanding of social processes can provide policymakers and postsecondary institutions with the ability to address gaps in STEM degree completion,” she said.