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Professor's Research Featured in Engineering Magazine

August 14, 2012

The research is titled, "'Asians are Good at Math. What an Awful Stereotype:' The Model Minority Stereotype's Impact on Asian American Engineering Students." Lowe completed the project in conjunction with two colleagues from the University of Oklahoma: Dr. Deborah A. Trytten, associate professor in the School of Computer Science, and Dr. Susan E. Walden, director of the Research Institute for STEM Education.

At OBU, Lowe teaches Introduction to Speech Communication and Small Group Discussion. During the upcoming semester, she will teach in a Learning Community, a small group that provides an opportunity for freshmen to make connections between academic disciplines, classmates and faculty members. The Learning Community will emphasize intercultural experiences and communication.

The publication presents an analysis of interviews with Asian American engineering students from OU. The research relates to the Model Minority Stereotype, which describes Asians and Asian Americans as hard working; intelligent, especially in math and science; seeking economical prestige and high educational attainment; and disinterested in racial politics. Certain facets of the Model Minority Stereotype intersect with qualities often perceived as desirable in engineering education, the researchers noted.

"Although some might consider those aspects of the Model Minority Stereotype as complimentary or even desired qualities in engineering students, there is a problem with that thinking," Lowe reports on the project's summary video. "The Model Minority Stereotype is hegemonic, meaning it is a belief system used by the dominant culture to maintain their position of power with the unknowing consent of the less powerful people."

The research project participants described experiences with racial stereotypes. The researchers concluded that despite the stereotypes, the academic record of Asian American participants was not significantly different from participants in other racial/ethnic groups. They also noted that engineering faculty and students have limited resources or opportunity to address racial issues.

The researchers conclude their project with several suggestions for institutions that wish to be more equitable to any minority population. One of these recommendations is that Asian Americans be considered for academic supports that are offered to other minority populations.

"Anna is an excellent teacher, scholar and committed Christian who has been an asset to our Division," said Dr. Kaylene Barbe, chair of OBU's Division of Communication Arts. "Her contributions to our students' education have been invaluable in helping them to learn and gain important perspectives on how to understand and interact with a diverse world."

Barbe said Lowe's research reveals the importance of considering the consequences of stereotypes placed on other people.

"Anna and her colleagues' research is important as it reminds us all to not take stereotypes as the final word on how we summarize who we think people are and what we think they are about," Barbe said. "This research also makes it clear that we need to think more about the consequences of stereotypes on groups and on individuals."

"Analyzing and understanding the ramifications of stereotypes on individuals can help us all be better communicators and help us to value the uniqueness of individuals more," Barbe said. "There's a great deal of potential for important future research from this initial study."

Lowe earned a bachelor's degree in interpersonal and public communication from OBU. She earned a master's degree in communication - culture and gender and a doctorate in communication - race, intercultural/cross-cultural and ethnography, both from OU.

For more information about the project and to view the summary video, click here.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation's Directorate of Undergraduate Education's STEM Talent Expansion Program Grant No. DUE-0431642. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

To learn more about studying Communication Arts at OBU, click here.