Culturally-based Ethical Barriers for American Indian/Alaska Native Students and Professionals in Engineering

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Prior research suggests various reasons for the paucity of American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) people in engineering fields, including academic deficiencies, lack of role models, and minimal financial support to pursue a college education. One potential reason that has yet to be explored relates to the cultural and spiritual barriers that could deter AI/AN people from feeling a sense of belonging in engineering fields. These barriers may create obstacles to progressing through engineering career pathways. Our research investigates the range and variation of cultural/spiritual/ethical issues that may be affecting AI/AN people's success in engineering and other science, technology, and mathematics fields. The work reported here focuses on findings from students and professionals in engineering fields specifically. The study seeks to answer two research questions: (1) What ethical issues do AI/AN students and professionals in engineering fields experience, and how do they navigate these issues?, and (2) Do ethical issues impede AI/AN students from pursuing engineering careers, and if so, how? We distributed an online survey to AI/AN college students (undergraduate and graduate) and professionals in STEM fields, including engineers, in the western United States region. Our results indicate strong connections to AI/AN culture by the participants in the study as well as some cultural, ethical, and/or spiritual barriers that exist for AI/AN individuals in the engineering field. The AI/AN professionals had less concerns with respect to activities that may conflict with AI/AN cultural customs compared to the students, which may be a result of the professionals having gained experiences that allow them to navigate these situations. Overall, our research offers insights for policy and practice within higher education institutions with engineering majors and/or graduate programs and organizations that employ engineering professionals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jul 26 2021
Event2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference, ASEE 2021 - Virtual, Online
Duration: Jul 26 2021Jul 29 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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