Minority students majoring in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines perform better if they aren't singled out for preferential treatment in the classroom. That's one conclusion from research findings developed by investigators at Tennessee Tech University and Tennessee State University under a Tennessee Board of Regents diversity research grant. The collaborative study sought to understand the experiences of racial minority undergraduates studying STEM subjects. The research was completed by Matthew Zagumny, professor of counseling and psychology at TTU, and David Shen-Miller, assistant professor of counseling psychology at TSU in Nashville. Further, the researchers found that minority STEM students performed better if they perceived that their university has a commitment to racial diversity in the classroom, among faculty and administrative staffers as well.
"Preferential treatment based on race is detrimental," Zagumny said. "It's almost the embarrassment of riches concept and, I think, a very human experience. But if you're in a near-solo status and given preferential treatment, you feel you have to prove that you're getting it for some other reason than being a racial minority. That creates stress, which affects performance."