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Learning from the PROSE: Exploring professional organizations’ role in supporting Black engineering student success

The PROSE study was developed to investigate how organizations providing professional and psychosocial support contribute to the development and success of Black Engineering students. Using multiple targeted interviews as a means of data collection we have executed an exploration of the lived experiences of Black engineering graduate students, who have successfully navigated engineering academic spaces while actively engaging in professional organizations. Initially the study focused on  participation in the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and/or were a member of a Black Greek Letter Organization; however many other systems of support have been identified as pivotal to the success of these Black engineers. The final deliverable for this study will be a video docuseries entitled, “Learning from the PROSE” highlighting the experiences of Black graduate engineering students to be disseminated to a wide range of audiences, as well as an ethnodrama (stage play) depicting critical race-related incidents based on true stories of Black engineering graduate students..

The first round of data collection is complete with a total of 37 participants interviewed. Due to unforeseen circumstances, the process of individual interviews (which would have been collected in person at the NSBE conference) was stalled. Because of this, we facilitated virtual check-ins, called “family reunions”, with the cohort of participants and other Black graduate students. The goal of these focus groups was to gauge how students were coping with the pandemic, and to create a safe space for these students to express their emotions and feelings during these trying times. This project is currently in the second phase of data collection, in which we are conducting second interviews with the first round of participants in order to further explore the impact that their chose professional organizations had on what they have accomplished, and how they got to where they are now. Results from the preliminary data have been disseminated at the CoNECD 2021 conference and multiple articles have been accepted to the CoNECD 2022. The work has also been presented at Georgia Institute of Technology (GATech) and the ARLS Dean’s Roundtable at the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) Annual Convention 2021.

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