Moin Syed Addresses Misrepresentation of Ethnic Minorities in the STEM Field

Alexa Jokinen

    The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) field is facing under-representation among graduate students and faculty. On Friday, April 7, Moin Syed, a Psychology Educator came to St. Scholastica to discuss the misrepresentation of minority groups in the STEM field.

    “I thought it was interesting to have someone who majored in the department of psychology talk about the science field,” said Danielle Luke, a senior Biochemistry major who attended the seminar.

    Syed expressed how the misrepresentation in the STEM field is directly related to the relationship between career identity and ethnic identity.

    Syed mentioned multiple different pathways that can be taken as students, specifically ethnic minorities enter the college setting. The different pathways highlight the pull of ethnic minorities to certain fields, while other fields (like the STEM field) push them away.

    For example, one pathway is where a college student with a strong ethnic background chooses a major that lines up with their strong ethnic beliefs. Many times, ethnic minorities are drawn to the social sciences and humanities in order to feel as though they are giving back to their community, or the people who are similar to them. When students in this situation automatically choose social sciences, they are opting themselves out of the STEM field, many times because of the influence of diversity in previous schools, social justice related clubs and the influence of their parents.

    Another example of one pathway is where students with a strong ethnic identity prior to coming to college do choose the STEM field as their area of interest. The issue with this is that their major in the STEM field does not line up with their identity, creating a disconnect among career identity and ethnic identity. This disconnect then leads to an increase in psychosocial tension. In the long run, ethnic minorities interested in the STEM field, end up feeling forced to change their major and switch to the social sciences, leading to a misrepresentation of minorities in science related fields.

    “The STEM field is pushing them away. It is not giving them what they need to develop their psychological identities,” said Syed.

    Syed stressed the connection between career choice and ethnic identity. Both are imperative for success in a college setting as well as a work setting, upon college completion.

    Zachary Via, an Assistant Chemistry Professor at St. Scholastica expressed the goal of introducing culture into the School of Sciences. “We would like to help reinforce a culture of active inquiry and exploration within the School of Sciences, and through the College as a whole. The vision statement of CSS is to prepare students for ‘responsible living and meaningful work’, and part of that preparation is gaining an appreciation of scholarly fields other than your own,” said Via.

     Similar to Via, Audrey Devine-Eller an Assistant Professor of Sociology agrees that Syed’s lecture was an educational experience for faculty. “Hearing from experts in other disciplines can be thought-provoking and help us understand our colleagues’ research as well as deepen and broaden our own research interests. That intellectual excitement is what I like best about the series,” said Devine-Eller.