Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department or School

Leadership and Counseling

Committee Member

Ronald Williamson

Committee Member

Ella Burton

Committee Member

Nelson Maylone

Committee Member

Jaclynn Tracy


The purpose of this qualitative study was to determine what inspires or leads seventh-grade African-American girls toward an interest in STEM, to characterize and describe the context of an out-of-school STEM learning environment, explore the impact on the seventh- grade African-American girls who participated in the program as it relates to individual STEM identity, and identify personal and academic experiences of seventh-grade African- American girls that contribute to the discouragement or pursuit of science and math-related academic pathways and careers. Notable findings in this study included the following: 1. Participants were interested in STEM and able to identify both external and internal influences that supported their involvement and interest in STEM activities. External influences expanded and elevated exposure to STEM experiences. 2. The MJS program provided an opportunity for participants to overcome challenges related to science and math knowledge and skills in school. 3. The MJS program increased levels of interest in STEM for the participants. 4. All participants increased their capacity to demonstrate increased knowledge in STEM content as a result of the learning experiences within the MJS program, and participants transferred this knowledge to experiences outside of the program including school. 5. The STEM learning environment provided multiple opportunities for participants to meet high expectation and access to engaging activities within a supportive, well-managed setting.6. The MJS program participants demonstrated behaviors related to building a STEM identity through the components described by Carlone and Johnson (2007), including recognition–internal and external acknowledgement of being a STEM person; competence–demonstrating an understanding of STEM content; and performance–publically exhibiting STEM knowledge and skills. The findings in this study suggested that African-American seventh-grade girls interested in STEM are inspired and encouraged to participate in STEM by both internal and external factors. Highly effective afterschool STEM programs increase interest, knowledge and skills in STEM. The capacity for building a STEM identity was expanded as explored/measured by the components of recognition, competence, and performance (Carlone & Johnson, 2007). The learning environment conditions and support for building a STEM identity enhance the pursuit of STEM-related fields for African-American middle school girls. Application of these factors add to the potential for a decrease in the gap of representation of African-American women engaged in STEM. Future studies may explore how African-American middle schools girls interested in STEM construct identity as it relates to STEM, racial, and gender identity development and how the mentoring experience in afterschool STEM programs impacts the career choices of pre-teaching students.