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Supportive Communities:

The Native American Student Experience in STEM




National Science Foundation

Grant HRD-0936647

Our Project In The News... click here.
Project Summary

This study investigates how Native American men and women differentially negotiate cultural expectations as well as social support structures to persist in STEM (Science Technology, Engineering and Math) disciplines. We hypothesize that Native American cultural roles may intersect with perceived gender roles to either enhance or undermine student’s persistence in STEM disciplines. We further hypothesize that Native American men and women differentially interact with formal and informal support structures in a university setting and may benefit from different specific interventions in pursuing STEM careers. Our project has two aims:


Aim 1: Investigate how the gendered experiences of Native American men and women influence their persistence in STEM disciplines.


Aim 2:   Investigate how specific formal and informal support structures differentially benefit Native American men and Native American women in STEM disciplines.


We follow Native American men and women in STEM majors at 2 institutions, Montana State University and Northern Arizona University, and perform in-depth interviews with several of these students. We will examine the differential impact across gender of social support structures, informal academic support structures, and formal academic support program and of the persistence of these students in STEM, with the goal of identifying the specific structures that lead to Native American student persistence in STEM. We utilize a mixed-method, longitudinal approach of quantitative analysis using well-validated instruments, and qualitative analysis of open-ended survey responses and in-depth interviews



Project Staff

Principle Investigator:

  Dr. Jessi Smith

   Associate Professor

   Department of Psychology

   Montana State University-Bozeman





Co-Principle Investigator:

   Dr. Anneke Metz

   MEDPREP Program Faculty

   School of Medicine   

   Southern Illinois University




Key Personnel: 

    Dr. Erin Cech

    Rice University

    Department of Socioogy






MSU Research Team:

Candace Raymond

Meg Huntoon

Heidi Sherick

Sheree Watson

Julian Collins

NAU Research Team:


Alexis Baca-Spry

Christina Moyer






View Text-only Version Text-only Updated: 1/09/06

Contact Us

PI: Dr. Jessi Smith
Associate Professor

Dept of Psychology
P.O. Box 172220
Bozeman, MT

Tel: (406) 994-5228
Fax: (406) 994-3804
Office: 428 Traphagen




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