“We’ve Always Been Engineers:” Indigenous Student Voices on Engineering and Leadership Identities

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Background: How do Indigenous engineering students describe their engineering leadership development? The field of engineering has made only slow and modest progress at increasing the participation of Indigenous people; an identity-conscious focus on leadership in engineering may help connect the practice of engineering with Indigenous students’ motivations and values. Methods: This study utilized a grounded theory qualitative approach to understand how Indigenous engineering students at a U.S.-based university experience engineering leadership. We explored the experiences of four Indigenous engineering students through one interview and one focus group. Results: Students pointed out how Indigenous peoples had long engaged in engineering work before contact with European settlers, and they saw an opportunity for leadership in applying their engineering knowledge in ways that uplifted their home communities. Conclusion: In addition to ways that engineering programs can better support Indigenous students who aspire to become practicing engineers, our study pointed to new directions engineering programs could take to frame engineering work as providing a toolkit to improve one’s community to leverage a wider set of motivations for entering engineering among many different communities underrepresented in engineering, including Indigenous students.



engineering identity, indigenous stem, indigenous students, native american students, STEM, STEM inclusion


Kwapisz, M.; Hughes, B.E.; Schell, W.J.; Ward, E.; Sybesma, T. “We’ve Always Been Engineers:” Indigenous Student Voices on Engineering and Leadership Identities. Educ. Sci. 2021, 11, 675. https://doi.org/10.3390/ educsci11110675
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