Women of Color in STEM Community College Pathways
Although social interactions have been shown to influence persistence in STEM, there is a gap in the literature about how these interactions influence women of color’s scientific thinking, especially how social networks among community college students impact the way they engage in scientific thinking and potentially produce knowledge. This study will examine national trends in community college STEM pathways for women of color and contextualize emergent and adaptive dynamics in their networks that influence their scientific thinking and navigational capital. To address the complexity of this understudied group’s academic journeys, we draw from interdisciplinary theoretical frameworks such as complex systems theory and Black feminist epistemology, and from mixed methods approaches such as statistical measures, network analysis, ecological diversity indices, and qualitative interviews. A mixed methods approach will enable a fine-grained, nuanced examination of influential factors that contribute to student retention. The project has two phases of analysis with several sources of data: Phase 1—National Longitudinal Data and Social Network (SN) Data within two-year Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs); and, Phase 2—Qualitative Student Narratives. The findings will be significant in mapping the complex pathways to advance knowledge and inform policy, practice, and initiatives for women of color and other underrepresented populations in STEM. Given the strong synergies with the HSI-STEM project, collaborations with the Research & Equity Scholarship Institute will contribute to transforming STEM access pathways for community college students by building off of the national data analysis initiatives and tapping into the institute’s established research partnerships with 11 HSIs.
National Science Foundation (DUE-1937777)
MELO-JEAN YAP, PHD
Dr. Melo-Jean Yap is the Principal Investigator for “Influential Networks for Women of Color in STEM Community College Pathways”–a grant funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF DUE # 1937777). She is also a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in NSF-funded grant, ADAPT: A Pedagogical Decision-Making Study (NSF HRD # 1759947) at San Diego State.
Dr. Yap’s interdisciplinary training in Biology, Education, and Ethnic Studies shaped her versatility in using concurrent methodologies to advance research on underrepresented groups in STEM fields. At UCLA, she studied the influences to the scientific thinking of women of color STEM majors in the community college via mixed methods approach of qualitative questionnaire and critical network theory.
Her Biology training via National Institutes of Health (NIH) programs–MARC Scholars Program and MBRS-RISE Graduate Fellowship–and background in teaching Biology prepared her for navigating STEM spaces. Since 2013, Dr. Yap has also been a FASEB MARC Mentor, coaching undergraduates in presenting their research at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students.
A knowledge broker, Dr. Yap hopes to conduct research that may help empower students and professors, as well as inform STEM praxis and policy. As a Richard J. Riordan Summer Intern at Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), she provided research support evaluating statewide K-12 Math placement policies. She is also the Project Director for STEM is LIT(eracies), a U.S. Department of Education (DOE) grant that trains middle school educators in integrating culturally relevant pedagogy into Science and Math curriculum.
Ph.D in Education [UCLA]
M.S. Biological Sciences [California State University, Los Angeles]
B.S. Physiology & B.A. Black Studies (now Africana Studies) [San Francisco State University]
FELISHA HERRERA VILLARREAL, PHD