Skip to main content
Log in

Latinos and the exclusionary space of engineering education

Latino Studies Aims and scope Submit manuscript


Popular ideas about retention in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) suggest that women and minorities are at the greatest risk for dropping out or switching majors. However, recent data show that Latinos/Latinas who matriculate into engineering persist at the same rates as their White counterparts. Still, few college-bound Latinos and Latinas choose engineering education as a pathway; some researchers have argued that engineering has an exclusionary culture. Here we disaggregate engineering from the larger STEM category, argue that the larger issue for Latinos/Latinas in engineering is recruitment not retention, and offer strategies for reaching Latino youth.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Institutional subscriptions


  • American Council on Education (ACE). 2006. Minorities in Higher Education: Twenty-second Annual Status Report. New York: American Council on Education.

  • Besterfield-Sacre, M., M. Moreno, L.J. Shuman and C.J. Atman . 2001. Gender and Ethnicity Differences in Freshmen Engineering Student Attitudes: A Cross-institutional Study. Journal of Engineering Education 90 (4): 477–489.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bradley, K. 2000. The Incorporation of Women into Higher Education: Paradoxical Outcomes? Sociology of Education 73 (1): 1–18.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Camacho, M.M. and S.M. Lord . 2011a. Quebrando Fronteras: Trends among Latino and Latina Undergraduate Engineers. Journal of Hispanic Higher Education 10 (2): 134–146.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Camacho, M.M. and S.M. Lord . 2011b. “Microaggresions” in Engineering Education: Climate for Asian, Latina, and White Women, Proceedings of the 2011 Frontiers in Education Conference, Rapid City, SD, October 2011.

  • Camacho, M. and S.M. Lord . 2013. The Borderlands of Education: Latinas in Engineering. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Carlson, L. and J. Sullivan . 2004. Exploiting Design to Inspire Interest in Engineering Across the K-16 Engineering Curriculum. International Journal of Engineering Education 20 (3): 372–378.

    Google Scholar 

  • Coyle, E.J., L.H. Jamieson and W.C. Oakes . 2005. EPICS: Engineering Projects in Community Service. International Journal of Engineering Education 21 (1): 139–150.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gándara, P. 2006. Strengthening the Academic Pipeline Leading to Careers in Math, Science, and Technology For Latino Students. Journal of Hispanic Higher Education 5 (3): 222–237.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gándara, P. and F. Contreras . 2009. The Latino Education Crisis: The Consequences of Failed Social Policies. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Godfrey, E.G. and L. Parker . 2010. Mapping the Cultural Landscape in Engineering Education. Journal of Engineering Education 99 (1): 5–22.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gutstein, E., P. Lipman, P. Hernandez and R. de los Reyes . 1997. Culturally Relevant Mathematics Teaching in a Mexican American Context. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education 28 (6): 709–737.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hacker, S. 1989. Pleasure, Power, and Technology: Some Tales of Gender, Engineering, and the Cooperative Workplace. Boston, MA: Unwin Hyman.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hancock, C. and E. Yu . 2009. The Impact of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy on the Academic Achievement of Multicultural Students. American Association for Educational Research (AERA) Annual Conference, San Diego, CA, April 2009.

  • HR 2272. 2007. The America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science (COMPETES) Act,, accessed 26 August 2011.

  • HR 5116. 2010. America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010,, accessed 15 December 2011.

  • Hill, C., C. Corbette and A. St. Rose . 2010. Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Washington DC: AAUW.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hurtado, S. and D.F. Carter . 1997. Effects of College Transition and Perceptions of the Campus Racial Climate on Latino College Students’ Sense of Belonging. Sociology of Education 70 (1): 342–345.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jackson, S.A. 2004. The Quiet Crisis: Falling Short in Producing American Scientific and Technical Talent,, accessed 26 August 2011.

  • Knight, D.W., L.E. Carlson and J.F. Sullivan . 2003. Staying in Engineering: Effects of a Hands-on, Team-based, First-year Projects Course on Student Retention, Proceedings of the American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference, Nashville, TN, June 2003.

  • Ladson-Billings, G. 1995. Toward a Theory of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy. American Educational Research Journal 32 (3): 465–491.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lord, S.M., M.M. Camacho, R.A. Layton, R.A. Long, M.W. Ohland and M.H. Wasburn . 2009. Who's Persisting in Engineering? A Comparative Analysis of Female and Male Asian, Black, Hispanic, Native American, and White Students. Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering 15 (2): 167–190.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mendoza, E.M. and K.O. Johnson . 2000. Land of Plenty Diversity as America’s Competitive Edge in Science, Engineering and Technology. Report of the Congressional Commission on the Advancement of Women and Minorities in Science, Engineering and Technology Development, 2000., accessed 26 August 2011.

  • NACME (National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering). 2008. Confronting the “New” American Dilemma, Underrepresented Minorities in Engineering: A Data-based Look at Diversity,, accessed 26 August 2011.

  • National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering and Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. 2007. Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future. Washington DC: National Academies Press., accessed 26 August 2011.

  • National Academy of Engineering (NAE). 2008. Changing the Conversation: Messages for Improving Public Understanding of Engineering,, accessed 26 August 2011.

  • National Academy of Engineering (NAE). 2009. Greatest Engineering Achievements of the 20th Century,, accessed 26 August 2011.

  • National Science Foundation (NSF). 2008. Tables 5–7. Tables 5–7. Bachelor's Degrees, by Race/Ethnicity, Citizenship, Sex, and Field: 2008. Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering,, accessed 26 August 2011.

  • National Science Foundation (NSF). 2010. Tables 2–8. Tables 2–8: Intentions of Freshmen to Major in S&E Fields, by Race/Ethnicity and Sex: 2008. Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering,, accessed 26 August 2011.

  • Ohland, M.W., C.E. Brawner, M.M. Camacho, R.A. Layton, R.A. Long, S.M. Lord and M.H. Wasburn . 2011. Race, Gender, and Measures of Success in Engineering Education. Journal of Engineering Education 100 (2): 225–252.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ohland, M.W., S.D. Sheppard, G. Lichtenstein, O. Eris, D. Chachra and R.A. Layton . 2008. Persistence, Engagement, and Migration in Engineering. Journal of Engineering Education 97 (3): 259–278.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Oliva, M. 2008. Latino Access to College: Actualizing the Promise and Potential of K-16 Partnerships. Journal of Hispanic Higher Education 7 (2): 119–130.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sanoff, A.P. 2005. Competing forces. ASEE Prism,, accessed 26 August 2011.

  • Torres-Ayala, A.T. 2009. Broadening Participation in STEM: Not Just an Image Problem. The Hispanic Outlook: 18 May 2009.

  • Tsang, E., ed. 2000. Design that Matters: Service-learning in Engineering. Washington DC: American Association of Higher Education.

    Google Scholar 

  • US Census Bureau. 2010., accessed 26 August 2011.

  • US Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). 2000. Entry and Persistence of Women and Minorities in College Science and Engineering Education. NCES 2000–601. (G. Huang, N. Taddese, and E. Walter. Project Officer: S. S. Peng) Washington DC.

  • US Navy. 2010. Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps – Scholarship Selection Criteria,, accessed 26 August 2011.

  • Villalpando, O. 2003. Self-segregation or Self-preservation? A Critical Race Theory and Latina/o Critical Theory Analysis of a Study of Chicana/o College Students. Qualitative Studies in Education 16 (5): 619–646.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


This work is supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) through a Research on Gender in Science and Engineering collaborative grant (0734085 & 0734062). The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of NSF.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Camacho, M., Lord, S. Latinos and the exclusionary space of engineering education. Lat Stud 11, 103–112 (2013).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: