STEM TIG Week: Defying Stereotype Narratives on who can do STEM: Lessons from a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) by John Chikwem, Toks Fashola, Kevin Favor, and Monica Mitchell

Greetings AEA Colleagues! When we learned of the 2019 AEA conference theme, Speaking Truth to Power, we instantly knew our evaluative work with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) held meaningful resonance.

Our team includes: John Chikwem ( – NSF PI Lincoln University of Pennsylvania; Toks Fashola – American University; Kevin Favor ( – Lincoln University of Pennsylvania; and Monica Mitchell ( – MERAssociates, LLC.

In our STEM equity and access work, we have always recognized that despite 3% representation of HBCUs among all US institutions of higher education (IHEs), they continue to defy odds by disproportionately producing STEM bachelor’s degrees earned by African Americans.  Our student focus groups reflect the 2017 New York Times On Campus Opinion piece written by a Spelman student who recounted her decision-making process to attend an HBCU was based on a culturally-affirming and high expectations environment.

Hot Tip:  Institutional diversity does exist among HBCUs (e.g., public, private, small, large) and affords ample opportunities to conduct culturally responsive evaluation.

In our work as evaluators, we use culturally responsive strategies and frameworks to examine broadening participation interventions.  While availability of STEM evaluation instruments has been increasing, we normally find ourselves having to adapt available instruments in order to explicitly address cultural responsiveness.

Rad Resource:  A new STEM Evaluation Repository is available on the AEA website to identify STEM-related instruments for adaptation.  Remember, always seek permission to adapt from the instrument’s author/developer.

We adapted mentor and mentee versions of the Mentoring Competency Assessment (MCA) to assess the extent of culturally responsiveness in mentoring undergraduate STEM students at Lincoln University.  We created a culturally responsive mentoring construct by combining existing survey items with items we developed.  The newly developed construct provided insight on the extent to which STEM mentoring accommodated different communication styles, considered cultural differences, and accounted for bias and prejudice.  Unexpectedly we found striking gender differences.  Female faculty mentors and female students were more in tune with cultural responsiveness than their male counterparts.  This finding shed light on the need for STEM faculty development in culturally responsive mentoring.  The strengths of female STEM faculty can support the design and delivery of faculty development.

Lessons Learned: The use of culturally responsive evaluation in the STEM context is not meant to suddenly produce a silver bullet but rather to provide greater insights and the framing of additional unforeseen but useful questions.

We acknowledge the need to develop validated culturally responsive instruments to evaluate STEM broadening participation interventions.  In the meantime, we recommend instrument adaptation as a useful mechanism to support the conduct of culturally responsive STEM evaluation.

As the community of culturally responsive STEM evaluators grows, you will find us at the upcoming Center for Culturally Responsive Evaluation and Assessment Annual Conference in Chicago on March 27-29, 2019.  An increasing number of STEM sessions is added to the conference program each year.   Join us at the March 2019 CREA conference as we continue to share information and learn together as STEM evaluators.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating STEM Education and Training TIG Week with our colleagues in the STEM Education and Training Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our STEM TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

3 thoughts on “STEM TIG Week: Defying Stereotype Narratives on who can do STEM: Lessons from a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) by John Chikwem, Toks Fashola, Kevin Favor, and Monica Mitchell”

  1. Alexa Easterling-Walker

    In reading the blog entry, the takeaway of this matter all lies in representing Black students who attend historically Black colleges and universities. In the continual rise of Black women attending institutions of higher learning has led to “female faculty mentors and female students were more in tune with cultural responsiveness than their male counterparts.” For this reason, Black women have become educationally involved in all aspects of breaking stereotypical barriers financially and socially. The worthiness of STEM programs at HBCUs result in progressive students in becoming efficient, self-confident, and serving their communities. Due to economically disadvantaged public schools, there are hardships in bridging the gap in opening an opportunity for secondary learners in exposing them to a quality education above receiving a high school diploma. In this regard, school counselors are a leading force in helping students progress on college learning strategies and career readiness.

  2. I found this article very insightful and intuitive to the plight that is still upon HBCU campuses with not enough involvement from male counterparts participating in STEM. As a fellow Washingtonian I know the presence that Howard University has within the district. Growing up in the northeast section of town I was fortunate to participate in many of the traditions around homecoming week. It would be nice to see more corporations showing an interest in STEM programs across the nation at our HBCU campuses with more recruiting for the men.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.