Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy





First Advisor

Larry H. Ebbers


This paper establishes a theoretical framework that will support a qualitative study of young women who, in their second year of college, struggled with and ultimately determined a career path after first considering engineering as both a vocational choice and an identity. Establishing Baudrillard (1995) as the primary theorist for this constructivist qualitative analysis, the intersection of self-authorship as defined by Magolda (2007) and social capital as defined by Yosso (2005) will be investigated as the theoretical basis for which to begin an affective understanding. Additionally, basic literature on diverse women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) will be collected, critiqued, summarized and interpreted before moving on to consider the ethical implications of this work. The research data analysis will be briefly mentioned before the summarizing discussion asks how the conclusions of the analysis can best advocate for changes involving both the participants engaged in the study as well as external readers of the work. Suggested contributions to education systems, evolving knowledge data bases, and practitioners will be considered.

Fiction writing as research was used to conduct this study. From the narratives, three themes emerged regarding students' understanding of themselves, their personal power and STEM as both a factor in self-authorship as well as a power in its own right: (1) Balancing the scales--social capital as help and hindrance; (2) Finding the center of self; (3) STEM's mystique. Seven suggestions for best practice in encouraging women to persist in engineering were provided.

Keywords: Self-authorship, Women in STEM, Social capital


Copyright Owner

Wanda Synstelien



File Format


File Size

248 pages