Environmental Variables for STEM Degree Interest and Goal Persistence: Examining the Experiences of Minority Students in the Rural Context
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This qualitative case study investigated the experiences of minority student participants from rural backgrounds for the association of environmental variables that contributed to the interest and persistence of a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) field major. Utilizing Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT) as a theoretical framework, a general model of environmental variables surrounding the SCCT constructs of self-efficacy, outcome expectations, interest, and goal persistence was created from the current literature and utilized in data analysis. Findings indicated that social supports and contextual influences proximal to choice were most impactful for STEM degree completion within the data collected through surveys, focus groups, and interviews. Results of interest also include rural minority student participants lack of learning experiences in STEM, altruistic outcome expectations, and the desire to use STEM degree knowledge to impact rural hometown communities. Implications from this research may inform practices in the recruitment and retention of students to the STEM fields from minority populations and their role in serving the rural contexts.