Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Ann David


Stephanie Hartzell


Michael Frye


Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) have been the foundation for discovery and technological innovation in the United States. The United States considers STEM education as a national priority to compete in the global economy and protect the nation’s innovation ecosystem. The high demand for careers in STEM fields promotes the importance of STEM education. However, Latinos, as the fastest-growing ethnic group in the United States, face many challenges in STEM education relating to a lack of progress, degree attainment, and participation in STEM professions.

This research aimed to explore the learning experience in an out-of-school (OST) STEM program, called “Girls in STEM”, and how it influenced Latinas’ self-efficacy, interest, and career development. The research focused on a single-case study of a STEM OST program in South Texas and utilized eight embedded cases to explore three research questions. The sample for this study consisted of 41 middle school and high school girls (grades 7 to 12) who had long-term participation experiences in the STEM program. The data for this qualitative study consisted of in-depth interviews, presentations from art-based activities, and visual arts. Followed by the case study design, the researcher purposefully sought in-depth information from embedded “unit of analysis,” which represented eight participants in the study (Yin, 2013, p. 23). Each case presented different aspects to answer research questions. The researcher analyzed interviews and art-based activities from participants through the lens of social cognitive theory and social cognitive career theory (Bandura, 2001; Lent et al., 1994).

The findings explored Latinas’ learning experiences in an OST STEM program. Participants expressed the program created a beneficial learning environment for them, where they engaged in various activities and interacted with adults in the program. The learning experience, as the starting point of SCCT model, had influences on the development of self-efficacy and the formation of interests. In this study, the integration of different subjects, opportunities for collaborative work and conversational interactions with professionals, are three characteristics of cultivating Latinas’ interest in STEM. Additionally, many girls in this study noticed the stereotypes of women in STEM, and gender bias exists in many STEM fields. Socioeconomic status may limit Latina’s options and affected their career development.