Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Morgridge College of Education, Higher Education

First Advisor

Cecilia M. Orphan

Second Advisor

P. Bruce Uhrmacher

Third Advisor

Chris A. Nelson

Fourth Advisor

Thomas Nail


Arts-based research, Culturally responsive methodologies, Diversity, Engineering education, Neurodivergence, New materialisms


Despite decades of initiatives, engineering education continues to lack diversity. The proportion of women, BIPOC, LGBTQA+, low-income, first-generation, and disabled students in engineering education remains below national population levels. The culture of engineering is a barrier to increasing participation in engineering for students from these communities. The purpose of this dissertation study was to explore the experiences of underrepresented engineering students as they are socialized into the culture of engineering. I theorized a novel conceptual framework called creative materialism that combines culturally responsive methodologies, new materialist theory, and arts-based research methods. Two research questions were used to guide the study. First, how do underrepresented students experience the culture of engineering? Second, how did the unique creative materialist framework function to answer the first question? In-depth subjective research was conducted at the Colorado School of Mines from 2022 through March 2023 with three female students with multiple underrepresented social identities like their race, sexuality, first-generation and low-income status, and physical and learning disabilities. The methods included unstructured interviews, personal diaries, and creative practices of poetry, photography, drawing, and painting. A theme of visibility on a continuum of invisible to hypervisible emerged in the findings about the culture. The participants’ myriad social identities shaped their experiences in the culture and campus community, which also was influenced by how visible their various identities were to others. Importantly, the participants resisted the harmful impacts of the culture on their mental health and well-being by enacting self-care and sharing their struggles with peers. Surprise findings for the researcher and all three participants to the second research question about the creative materialism framework were new neurodivergent identities that were unknown before the study. A significant contribution of the study is providing a novel framework for uncovering the hidden stories of how underrepresented students experience the culture of engineering. These stories offer new perspectives to engineering educators and researchers to better understand how the culture must be transformed toward inclusivity and access if diversity is to be increased.

Copyright Date


Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

All Rights Reserved
All Rights Reserved.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Katherine A. Robert


Received from ProQuest

File Format



English (eng)


453 pgs

File Size

2.8 MB


Higher education, Disability studies, Educational leadership