Examining the “Windows of Opportunity” for STEM Graduates

Josh Duke


Dr. Erik Hines sees a problem when it comes to STEM graduates. Like many researchers, he recognizes that there could possibly be a huge deficit of science, technology, engineering and mathematics specialists in the U.S. workforce throughout the next decade. However, he has focused his attention on a more acute—but perhaps more alarming—problem: the underrepresentation of African American, Hispanic and Native American STEM graduates.  

Uncovering the Problem

Hines, who is an associate professor in the Department of Educational Psychology and Learning Systems (EPLS) and leader of the School Counseling program, has examined this problem for almost a year now. He became aware of this problem while exploring his primary research interest, which involves looking at college and career readiness for African American males. He also has an interest in looking at career exploration in STEM fields for students of color in K-12. The statistics paint a dramatic drought of African American males in the STEM field. For example, every year 64% of white males earn a bachelor’s degree in STEM, compared to only 5% of African American males. This lack of black men graduating in STEM creates a ripple effect; Hines discovered that black men represented only 3.6% of the engineering workforce. Furthermore, only 2.5% of black males serve as engineering faculty at universities. With his background in school counseling, Hines has particular interest in the factors that deter or influence prospective STEM students. He also explores two other important questions, supported by his National Science Foundation (NSF) grant:

  • “What assets/strengths do Black males possess who persist or plan to continue in engineering beyond undergraduate studies?
  • What role does academic self-concept and engineering identity play in the intent to pursue advanced degrees among Black males?”

These are major questions posed by Hines and his team, and as such, the funding they have received from the NSF reflects that. The three-year project has a budget of over $400,000 each year. You can learn more about Hines’s research interest and the work he is doing in his Research in a Minute video.