Feds Spend $368,695 Studying Microaggressions in Engineering Programs

'An intersectional perspective'

Engineer Daniel Schubert (left) and student apprentice Alexander Bell (right) talk to each other in a laboratory / Getty Images
October 16, 2018

The National Science Foundation is spending over $350,000 studying "microaggressions" in college engineering programs using an "intersectional perspective."

The joint project is being conducted by Iowa State University and North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University. The project was awarded this summer, though research will not begin until Jan. 1, 2019.

The study will "build a gender and race microaggressions psychometric scale" to evaluate engineering students' behavior. The project is billed as "An Intersectional Perspective to Studying Microagressions [sic] in Engineering Programs."

"The research is motivated by the persistently low representation of gender and racial minorities in engineering education and seeks to study the subtle behaviors, or microaggressions, that students experience in engineering programs," according to the grant for the project.

The researchers claim there is a dearth of studies on "microaggressions" in engineering labs and suggest that "verbal, nonverbal, environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional," may be the cause of fewer female and minority students enrolling in engineering programs.

Goals of the study include raising awareness about "microaggressions" and making "minority students feel safe" in engineering labs.

"While microaggressions are especially frequent among minority students, their influence on student success and persistence in engineering programs has been understudied," the grant states. "This research investigates the effect of microaggressions on the experiences of engineering students and compares them in the context of a predominantly white institution (Iowa State University) and a historically black college (North Carolina A & T)."

"The project will contribute to diversifying engineering programs through increased awareness of the subtle behaviors that engineering students experience in college," the grant states.

The grant continues: "Creating an environment where minority students feel safe and included allow educating a competitive workforce which will ultimately positively impact our society by incorporating the needs and perspectives of all student groups."

The project will continue through December 2021. North Carolina A & T State University received $119,951, while Iowa State University took in $248,744.

In all, the study is costing taxpayers $368,695.

Scientific fields are increasingly being inundated with identity politics. A scientist at CERN was recently suspended and put under investigation for arguing physics is not sexist against women.

The National Science Foundation has funded similar studies in recent years, including over $500,000 to videotape male engineering students in labs to see if they were causing women to experience "microaggressions." The agency has also funded workshops on "intersectionality" and computing. Another project spent $587,441 attempting to make engineering a "safe zone" for LGBTQ students.

Researchers on the latest project said they would approach "microaggressions" from an "intersectional perspective."

"Using an intersectional perspective that considers race and gender identities as unique identities, this research asks 'How do gender and race microaggressions affect students' success and persistence in engineering programs?'" the grant states.

"To answer this question," the researchers will identify "gender and race microaggressions" against "White men, White women, African-American men, African-American women, Latino men, Latina women, Asian men and Asian women."

The researchers said it is paramount to consider students through their racial and gender identity.

"The research advances the body of knowledge on microaggressions by identifying the real stories of students who experience them and by building measures of gender and race microaggressions," the grant states. "Importantly, this project clarifies that microaggressions need to be studied from an intersectional perspective and consider students' unique identity based on both race and gender."

Cristina Poleacovschi, an assistant professor at Iowa State and leading researcher on the project, lists "social justice" as one of her research interests.

Poleacovschi "has experience in working for international development organizations and is interested in studying the effects of infrastructure planning on issues of social justice," according to her faculty page.

Stephanie Luster-Teasley, the leading project researcher at North Carolina A & T State University, previously received a $150,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for a study of "sustainable engineering."

Published under: Government Spending