Now I Understand! Success Factors among High-Achieving Undergraduate Hispanic Students Majoring in Engineering at a Research University



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This dissertation examined the perceptions of high-achieving undergraduate Hispanic students majoring in engineering with regard to their academic success. As the largest and fastest growing minority group in the US, Hispanics are underrepresented among the racial and ethnic compositions of students enrolled in undergraduate engineering programs. Factoring in the overall decline in the number of graduates in engineering, as well, enhances the challenges this will bring to need for a racially and ethnically representative US workforce. While engineering is an academically demanding discipline, some students not only succeed, but excel. To understand the factors that contributed to their academic success, seven high-achieving undergraduate engineering students were interviewed to examine their undergraduate experiences at Texas A&M University.

This qualitative study utilized semi-structured participant interviews as the means of data collection to gather information. Through the process of content analysis, four key themes emerged: (1) Versatility: That's a different way of seeing things that I never thought of before, (2) Individuality: I've gotten more a sense of who I am, (3) Essence: That's just how we are, and (4) Successful Study Strategies: I realized if I wanted to continue not having to relearn and relearn, I should just learn.

Findings from this study suggest that Texas A&M should emphasize engagement opportunities through the use of freshman Learning and/or Living-Learning Communities to improve the acclimation of new students into the University as well as assist them in forming the type of peer relationships that can increase the likelihood of academic success. In addition, the University should make a variety of academic assistance measures available to these students early in their academic careers to activate successful study strategies and accomplishments.