Summary of Watkins and Mensah et al.’s “Peer Support and STEM Success for One African American Female Engineer”

TO: Professor J Ellis 

FROM: Brianna Persaud 

DATE: 9/19/2020

SUBJECT: 500- Word Summary  

This is a 500- word summary of the “Peer Support and STEM Success for One African American Female Engineer” by Shari Earnest Watkins and Felicia Moore Mansah, of The Journal of Negro Education. 

African Americans face hardships that other races typically don’t have to when pursuing a career related to STEM. “A handful of researchers have investigated the experiences of African American PhD Scientists and have found race to be an influential factor for persistence in their STEM careers (Brown et al., 2013; Pearson.” In the article that was assigned to my class and I, there were several studies conducted to identify these obstacles that African-Amercians, particularly African-Amercian women face. These studies were conducted by Dr. Jenkins in an effort to fight for the betterment of her race and equal opportunity. Dr. Jenkins studied as an undergraduate at an HBCU and pursued a Master’s degree immediately afterwards at graduate school. 

According to Dr. Jenkins, studying as an undergraduate was one of the best experiences of her life. Her coming to this conclusion was influenced by establishing peer relationships within her HBCU. Dr. Jenkins believes that peer relationships ultimately have the most influence on African-American women studying under STEM programs. Dr. Jenkins also goes on to state that establishing peer relationships (with same race peers in particular) assisted in building confidence, passion and companionship. She also credits much of her success to her peers that she established relationships with during her time as an undergraduate due to how close she became with them. Along with her peers, she dedicated a lot of time to studying as well. While Dr. Jenkins emphasizes the importance of establishing peer relationships in college as an African American, she also discusses how racism and race  affects those of her descent  that are particularly not in the same environment as she was during her undergraduate studies. Studies along with Dr. Jenkins Graduate school experience indicates that racism plays a significant role in determining whether African American students succeed in pursuing their degree under the STEM umbrella. Oher students that aren’t placed in that same environment as her are automatically at a disadvantage due to lack of fair treatment and equal opportunities.

As Dr. Jenkins began to talk about her experience as a graduate student, she talks about the unexpected struggle she began to face while not being in the same environment as she was as an undergraduate. Dr. Jenkins was no longer surrounded by the same peers she was before, making it incredibly hard on herself to stay motivated and to achieve the same status she once had academically as well. In her new environment, Dr. Jenkins felt isolated due to her new peers not being willing to assist her while also excluding her from a lot of experiences. Dr. Jenkins even states that during her graduate studies, her peers were very ‘cliquish’ and tended to stay within their own race. If it wasn’t for her same race peers outside of her university, ‘superstar jaheed’ in particular, she believes that she wouldn’t have been able to achieve her Masters degree.  All in all, as an African American student, racism is very prevalent in education, so comradery can alleviate that hardship while also guiding you to achieving your STEM degree. 


       Watkins SE, Mensah FM. Peer Support and STEM Success for One African American     Female Engineer. Journal of Negro Education. 2019;88(2):181-193. doi:10.7709/jnegroeducation.88.2.0181

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