Advancing Refugee Youth's STEM and Social Capital Through Family-Focused Learning

Advancing Refugee Youth's STEM and Social Capital Through Family-Focused Learning


This project focuses on promoting STEM aspirations among youth and parents of refugee backgrounds through multiple strategies including participating in a college-knowledge program, field trips to campuses, and e-mentoring with STEM professionals.


This project creates partnerships among multiple schools and centers at Arizona State University with the Burundi-America Association for Humanity and Opportunities (BAAHO) to bolster representation of refugee families in STEM academic and career pathways. Refugee youth are sometimes overlooked by educators because of their emerging language skills, but like other youth they are capable of making important STEM contributions. This project recognizes and leverages the STEM knowledge and perspectives of Burundian refugee adults through a family-focused model that connects Burundian refugee families with university faculty and undergraduate students. Families with children ages 12-17 will participate in: living room outreach events facilitated by students and faculty, opportunities to meet and interact with STEM professionals, field trips to multiple university campuses to learn about college life and various STEM pathways, and informal STEM learning experiences of choice with other families. Additionally, older children will participate in an innovative technology experience that facilitates mentoring relationships between STEM professionals and the youth through an electronic-based STEM Aspiration journal shared between the mentee and mentor. At the core of the project are partnerships and opportunities for reciprocal learning, where parents are able to share their expertise while also learning more about how to be effective advocates for their children; youth are able to learn from undergraduate and practicing professional mentors, while undergraduates also learn from Burundian youth; and Burundian leaders teach faculty and undergraduates about Burundian history and culture while faculty and undergraduates share their experiences with navigating STEM career pathways.

The project advances knowledge of refugee families' STEM experiences and aspirations through research framed around social cognitive career theory. The investigators examine the composite and specific effects of each of the project activities on the youth participants' self-efficacy, STEM identity, outcome expectations, and STEM interests, in support of their STEM goals. Additionally, the researchers aim to understand how college social capital and STEM capital among Burundian refugee families both directly impacts and acts as a moderator on children's STEM aspirations. In this pilot study, the investigators take a mixed-methods research approach, where qualitative methods allow them to understand how different aspects of the program impact the youth participants. In collaboration with Burundian leaders, the researchers adapt survey instruments for cultural validity, and administer the surveys for additional data related to the impact of the program activities. Contributions from this project will include: a family-focused outreach model that can be used by other universities and/or with other refugee communities, an approach to facilitating remote mentoring through shared electronic journaling,  research findings related to how different aspects of the model impact refugee participants, and research instruments that have been adapted for use with refugee populations. The project will provide a foundation for possible future scale-up with other refugee populations (and in other communities), informed by the findings from this project and further supported by the International Rescue Committee.

This project is funded by the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program, which supports projects that build understandings of practices, program elements, contexts, and processes contributing to increasing students' knowledge and interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and information and communication technology (ICT) careers.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.



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2021 - 2022


"Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ" Tempe, AZ

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