Christopher Jett, University of West Georgia – Black Men and STEM Careers

On University of West Georgia Week: Race-related stereotypes can push Black men away from STEM careers.

Christopher Jett, associate professor of mathematics, explores how the persistence of Black men in STEM can help them thrive in the future.

Dr. Christopher Jett is an associate professor of mathematics in the College of Arts, Culture, and Scientific Inquiry at the University of West Georgia. He has served at the university since 2012, having earned his Ph.D. in teaching and learning with a concentration in mathematics education from Georgia State University in 2009 and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics from Tennessee State University in 2003 and 2005, respectively. Dr. Jett’s research focuses on high-achieving African American male mathematics/STEM students, critical race theory, and culturally relevant pedagogy.

This segment was recorded at The WOLF Internet Radio in the Department of Mass Communications at the University of West Georgia.

Black Men and STEM Careers

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Black men are confronted with racial stereotypes in the broader society, and the racial unrest in this country is bringing this reality to the forefront in an unprecedented way. Also, the framing of Black men in policy work has been critiqued for being deficit in nature. Furthermore, the research literature indicates that race-related stereotypes about Black men manifest themselves in academic environments in nuanced ways. For example, race-related stereotypes suggest that Black men are not suited for STEM careers. As a result, Black men must contend with messages that they do not belong in STEM, and the STEM enterprise is missing out on this group’s invaluable STEM talents.  

Moreover, mathematics has been consistently noted as a barrier to STEM persistence. More specifically, mathematics is often used as a “gatekeeper” or “gateway” to STEM fields. However, asset-based work shows that minoritized students who successfully complete the Calculus sequence persist in STEM majors at a higher rate regardless of the institution type. Consequently, minoritized students who perform well in mathematics can provide substantive implications, insights, and recommendations for the betterment of STEM research, policy, and practice. 

In spite of the aforementioned challenges, Black men continue to persist and thrive in STEM fields. Studying Black men’s racialized and mathematics experiences can shed light on the factors that lead to their STEM persistence. The existing research merging these two together is sparse, but the initial evidence-based work substantiates that this line of research holds significant promise for broadening the participation of Black men in STEM fields. Therefore, the research community must examine, more systematically, Black men’s STEM experiences from an asset-based approach to ameliorate their STEM achievement outcomes and produce learning environments that support their STEM goals and aspirations.

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