As the country looks to increase the STEM workforce it is important to examine the effect of the programs in place, specifically the effect on the students choices in education. The Mathematics & Science Academy (MSA), is a STEM-themed, public magnet school in Southern California whose mission is to increase the nation’s pool of graduates in mathematics and science. It is 1 of the many schools and programs in place to increase the United States (U.S.) Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) workforce. This study, designed as a qualitative case study investigated how MSA has influenced female, African American students who attended a STEM magnet school in their educational pathways. Data was collected from 9 former African American, female graduates from the MSA class of 1998 primarily through interviews. Additional data was received from a pre-interview questionnaire and artifacts from their high school experience. This study yielded 4 conclusions. First, the push to study STEM must be intentional and should be influenced by more factors than the school environment alone. Without mentors and an explicit thrust towards STEM, other factors may lead students away from STEM majors. Second, family and society are especially influential in directing a student’s pathway. They along with the navigational and resistant capital gained by a student can divert a student’s chosen path. Third, students are influenced by multiple factors (e.g. community, school environment, peers, family) each of which can impel them in a certain direction. Lastly, post-secondary (college) educational experiences are highly influential on choice of major and career pathways. Based on the findings of this study, recommendations were made for leaders and administrators of STEM-themed magnet schools to consider, when developing programs that will encourage students to pursue STEM careers.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Organizational leadership; Science -- Study and teaching -- California; Technology -- Study and teaching -- California; Engineering -- Study and teaching -- California; Mathematics -- Study and teaching -- California; African American women -- Education (Secondary) -- Interviews; Educational evaluation -- California

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Collatos, Anthony;