Why are Native American women under-represented in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics? This is a question Montana State University professor Jessi L. Smith, and her Anneke Metz, a former MSU psychology professor now at the University of Southern Illinois, have received a grant in order to find out. Smith has received a $217,859 grant from the National Science Foundation for a study that hopefully will provide insights into how to promote success for Native American in the STEM fields, specifically Native women.
Smith told her university that she feels increasing Native participation in STEM fields is important because society is shaped by science and technology. She cites the benefits in participation for the Native American culture as important, but equally beneficial is the impact diversity has on the sciences and society as a whole . The more diversity in a field, the higher quality the decisions, products and innovations will be.
Since 1994 the increase in Native Americans going to college has been fueled mostly by the increased enrollment of Native women, so Smith finds it very important to study these women in the STEM fields and help raise retention as well as entrance into the fields.
The two researchers will follow students for a year and will identify what effective social and academic support is necessary for students in the science and technology fields.
"We expect to make concrete, data-driven recommendations to academic institutions that lead to more equitable learning environments for Native students in the disciplines," Smith told MSU.