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Author ORCID Identifier


Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Nilanjana Dasgupta

Subject Categories

Social Psychology


The underrepresentation of women, racial ethnic minorities, and first-generation college students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields in the United States has been well-documented. Members of these minority groups face negative stereotypes casting doubt on their abilities in these fields, which can cause the concern that they will be judged through the lens of the stereotype and devalued. This concern is called social identity threat. This dissertation presents three investigations focusing on the experiences of underrepresented students in STEM, examining when and how altering situational contexts increases or decreases their vulnerability to social identity threat. Chapter 1 is a literature review summarizing theories underlying these investigations. Chapter 2 tested how subtle gender stereotypic cues affect women’s attentional vigilance on a math related task. Chapter 3 examined the long-term impacts of same-sex peer mentorship on women’s academic experiences and retention in engineering. Chapter 4 tested whether immersion in a living learning community designed for first-generation students benefitted their academic experiences and retention in the biological sciences. Chapter 5 concludes by discussing the theoretical contribution of all three studies, presenting recommendations for application, and posing suggestions for future research.