Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Sharon Zumbrunn

Second Advisor

Lisa Abrams

Third Advisor

Rosalyn Hargraves

Fourth Advisor

Angie Wetzel


The purpose of this research was to examine Black STEM students’ sense of belonging. The researcher also sought to understand what factors most contributed to students’ sense of belonging and whether the involvement in a living learning community or summer bridge program had an effect. An explanatory sequential mixed methods design was used. Participants (N = 89) were administered a revised Psychological Sense of School Membership survey, then were purposively selected to participate in follow-up interviews (N = 8). A principal component analysis, an independent t-test, and a multiple regression analysis were conducted.

Results of the principal component analysis identified a two-component model containing 15 items. Survey results indicated that students in a cohort did not differ significantly on their sense of belonging. Sense of belonging was not a significant indicator of academic success. Seven themes emerged during the qualitative phase of the study: (a) student perception of the university; (b) student perception of STEM; (c) individual attributes; (d) family; (e) faculty interaction and support; (f) peer interaction and support; and (g) recommendations. The quantitative and qualitative data provided details regarding students’ perceptions of belongingness.

Students highlighted the importance of relationships with others, specifically with faculty and peers, to their belonging and success in the university. This study provided researchers, university administrators, professors, and even students insight into the world of Black STEM students and highlighted the nuances associated with their attendance at a predominately White institution and studying in a White, male dominated field.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission