Ready for Transition: Factors that facilitate transfer to undergraduate engineering programs among Black African and American students

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This study examines the factors facilitating the transfer admission of students broadly classified as Black from a single community college into a selective engineering college. The work aims to further research on STEM preparation and performance for students of color, as well as scholarship on increasing access to four-year institutions from two-year schools. Factors illuminating Underrepresented Racial and Ethnic Minority (URM) student pathways through Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) degree programs have often been examined through large-scale quantitative studies. However, this qualitative study complements quantitative data through demographic questionnaires, as well as semi-structured individual and group. The backgrounds and voices of diverse Black transfer students in four-year engineering degree programs were captured through these methods. Major findings from this research include evidence that community college faculty, peer networks, and family members facilitated transfer. Other results distinguish Black African from Black American transfers; included in these distinctions are depictions of different K-12 schooling experiences and differences in how participants self-identified. The findings that result from this research build upon the few studies that account for expanded dimensions of student diversity within the Black population. Among other demographic data, participants’ countries of birth and years of migration to the U.S. (if applicable) are included. Interviews reveal participants’ perceptions of factors impacting their educational trajectories in STEM and subsequent ability to transfer into a competitive undergraduate engineering program. This study is inclusive of, and reveals an important shifting demographic within the United States of America, Black Africans, who represent one of the fastest-growing segments of the immigrant population.