Document Type



Doctor of Education


Educational Practice

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Charles Granger


Keith Miller

Helene Sherman


The STEM fields, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, face a significant challenge: the underrepresentation of women and minority racial groups entering STEM degree programs and careers. Addressing this STEM gap requires more than quality curriculum and educational supports; there is a need to understand the social psychological processes that influence students’ perceptions, motivation, and interest in STEM. The concept of science identity has been posed as a research perspective to understand participation and persistence in STEM. Enacting a science identity may include describing oneself as a scientist, having a high sense of self-efficacy to do scientific work, displaying an interest to do science, and engaging with and receiving validation from a scientific community of practice. The purpose of this grounded theory case study was to explore the science identities enacted by twenty-four graduates from a Midwest urban public high school (MUPHS) who have enrolled in undergraduate STEM degree programs. Data collection involved semi-structured interviews that explored four components of science identity: interest, competence, performance, and recognition. Qualitative analysis through a constructivist coding approach was applied to understand why students chose to enter and persist in a STEM degree program. Emerging themes related to experience, motivation, and persistence were examined, and salient identities both unique and shared between different gender and racial groups are identified. Five salient science identities emerged: Research Scientists, STEM-Career Focused, STEM Apprentices, STEM Humanists, and STEM Seekers. Recommendations to support gender and racial diversity in STEM programming and future avenues of research are provided.