Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Kortegast, Carrie

Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

Legacy Department

Department of Counseling and Higher Education (CAHE)


Individuals coming from low-income backgrounds, particularly women and people of color, are disproportionately underrepresented in STEM fields. The low representation is often attributed to low enrollment and completion rates in STEM programs. Community colleges play a crucial role in increasing diversity in the workforce. However, there is not much information about how community college students’ experiences in STEM academic programs supports their science identity development. The purpose of this case study was to understand how participation in a STEM intervention program assisted low-income students in their science identity development. Science identity development has been used to understand how students’ interactions with the field influence their interest, engagement, and sense of belonging to science. The STEM Community program was a STEM Intervention Program (SIP) that provided low-income students, many that held other minoritized identities, with financial, social, and academic assistance. The case study included semi-structured interviews with 17 program participants and 2 program mentors, and the program coordinator, document analysis of end-of-the-year student reflections, and observational data. The findings from the study suggest that early intellectual curiosity, early exposure to science, encouragement to pursue a career in science, and personal goals play a major role in sparking interest in science. Hands-on experiences, mentoring, and guidance increase the sense of competence and performance in science. Engaging in undergraduate research opportunities and scientific conferences substantially increases students’ sense of recognition and belonging in science. This study also found that finances, privileges, representation, and access to STEM professionals play a role in how students experience STEM programs, thus influencing their science identity development.


148 pages




Northern Illinois University

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In Copyright

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NIU theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from Huskie Commons for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without the written permission of the authors.

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