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ERIC Number: ED551156
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 256
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: 978-1-2677-3801-1
Sustaining Liminality: Experiences and Negotiations of International Females in U.S. Engineering Graduate Programs
Dutta, Debalina
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, Purdue University
This project examines the intersectionalities of international females in engineering graduate programs of the United States, using frameworks of sustainability and liminality theory. According to Dutta and Kisselburgh (2011) international females in graduate engineering constitute the "minorities of minorities," not only in terms of their status as international students but also by their underrepresentation as women in engineering (Faulkner, 2009). Research regarding international female graduate students tends to be categorized as the experiences of international students in the U.S. (Lee & Rice, 2007), or as the struggles of female engineers in engineering disciplines (Tonso, 2007). Therefore, this project aims to distinguish the unique population of female engineers of international origin from holistic studies of international students, and attempts to draw out and understand the experiences of international female students in U.S. engineering graduate programs. Dutta and Kisselburgh (2011) found that female engineers who are international in origin exist in liminal states indefinitely. This liminal nature has been described under the theory of liminality (Turner, 1967) which posits that when transitioning from one life-changing event to another (such as birth, death, marriage), individuals go through a transformatory phase where they are subjected to invisibility, vulnerability, and a feeling of loss. Although Turner posited this phase as transcendental and temporary, Dutta and Kisselburgh (2011) suggest the liminal period can be more permanent in contemporary global societies. In other words, liminal experiences of vulnerability and structural invisibility may be sustained experiences of international female engineering students. Furthermore, the project attends to the overlaps, tensions and challenging experiences faced by international females in surviving engineering graduate program. To achieve this goal, liminality theory is limited in accounting for how vulnerable individuals reframe their agentic outcomes to make meaning of their marginalized existence. Therefore, I integrate constructs of sustainability with liminality theory in order to provide a framework to understand the ability of vulnerable individuals (in this case, international female engineers) to persist within marginalizing social structures. Sustainability has been a useful framework to understand how organizations practice self-efficacy (Butler, 2001) and has the potential to understand the negotiations and discursive practices enacted by international women engineers by examining their everyday meaning-making practices. For international female engineers who are in between spaces of belonging, it becomes important to understand how they navigate these contested spaces and how they transform the spaces to their advantage by persisting in their struggles with the spaces. Through interviews and focus groups, I explored the ways in which international female engineering graduate students negotiate the tensions they experience through interviews and focus groups, attending to the underlying processes of sustenance through which international female engineering students negotiate their liminal status. In doing so, I introduce and discuss five themes of the practice of sustainability in negotiating liminality: (a) crystallizing engineering identities, (b) (re)constructing inclusion, (c) enduring hardships, (d) rearchitecting (in)visibility, and (e) (re)engineering efficacy. The contributions of this research lie in the amalgamation of liminality and sustainability theories to understand the discourses through which international women engineering graduate students negotiate the transitions they experience in U.S. engineering programs. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A