How can STEM disciplines support political engagement? Examining student characteristics and college experiences

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Abstract

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) educators have a unique opportunity to prepare voters who are knowledgeable about science-related policy issues that inevitably become election issues (Rudolph & Horibe, 2016). A substantial body of higher education literature indicates that college students learn civic values and commit to civic engagement through their curricular and co-curricular experiences (Bowman, 2011; Hurtado et al., 2012). Within STEM education, in particular, we study whether, and to what extent, students’ curricular, co-curricular, and classroom experiences—as well as background characteristics—relate to political engagement. We analyze data from the 2017 Student Experience in the Research University survey, using self-reported measures of voting in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and self-assessed political efficacy for 5,838 STEM students at six research universities. We use regression analyses to examine relationships among curricular, co-curricular, and classroom experiences with STEM undergraduates’ political engagement. Instead of simply examining whether STEM majors are less politically engaged than their non-STEM peers, our analyses and results provide insights about how STEM academic departments and faculty members can support students’ political engagement. We offer implications for education policy and practice for supporting STEM students’ political engagement through undergraduate experiences.

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How to Cite
Ro, H. K., Fernandez, F., & Bergom, I. (2022). How can STEM disciplines support political engagement? Examining student characteristics and college experiences. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 30, (53). https://doi.org/10.14507/epaa.30.6872
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Author Biographies

Hyun Kyoung Ro, University of North Texas

Hyun Kyoung Ro is an associate professor of counseling and higher education at the University of North Texas. She earned a PhD in higher education from The Pennsylvania State University with a minor in educational psychology-applied measurement. Her research interests include gender and racial equity in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) higher education.  

Frank Fernandez, University of Florida

Frank Fernandez is an assistant professor of higher education administration and policy and affiliate faculty with the Center for Latin American Studies at University of Florida. He earned a PhD in higher education from The Pennsylvania State University. He writes about educational equity and policy issues.

Inger Bergom, Harvard University

Inger Bergom is a senior research analyst in the Office of Institutional Research at Harvard University. She earned a PhD and MA in higher education from the University of Michigan, specializing in evaluation and assessment, learning and teaching, and faculty work.