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Shared discourses of the liminal tribe: Indian women graduates in U.S. engineering programs Debalina Dutta and Lorraine Kisselburgh Department of Communication Purdue University
Introduction US engineering schools are a popular choice for international students Purdue University is one of the top five recruiters (NSF, 2009) In Purdue, out of the 2680 enrollments in engineering graduate program in Fall 2010, 262 were international female students (Purdue Data Digest)
Rationale International students face numerous cultural adjustments (Rochlich & Martin, 1991) Female international students face additional socio-emotional challenges (Verthalyi, 1997) By reconstructing narratives of international female students in engineering programs, one can understand gender inequities in the engineering programs (Verthalyi, 1997)
Indian women in US engineering classrooms
Trichotomization of their identities Engineering classroom culture in India (Gupta, 2007; Kumar, 2001) Patrifocality (Mukhopadhyaya & Seymour, 1994) US Engineering classroom culture (Leonardi, 2003; Tonso, 1999) Messages Macrodiscourses on Patrifocality(Mukhopadhyaya & Seymour, 1994) Microdiscourses on efficacy (Verthalyi, 1997)
Rationale Indian women engineers ,[object Object],Continuous restructuring of  ,[object Object]
Professional self
Cultural identity,[object Object]
Theoretical framework Liminality ,[object Object]
A transition
Liminal individuals
Guided by rites, traditions and rules of society to which they once belonged,
Embedded in a process aimed to facilitate their change to a (different) social order (Turner, 1977),[object Object]
Liminality
Liminality Applying liminality theory to the context of Indian engineers in US engineering programs (gendered organizational sites), the study aims to examine the “liminal status” of international women in the gendered space of engineering attending to the intersections of self, occupation, organization and culture. Using this framework, we argue that the culture of origin and the culture of destination are not mutually exclusive, but instead occupy simultaneous space in the life of an individual and plays an important role in organizational negotiations.
Research questions What are the struggles and negotiations of Indian women engineers in US engineering graduate programs? How do Indian women navigate and negotiate the transitions between multiple cultures, organizational cultures, and identities?
Method Participants (N=10) Indian women engineers (post-graduate) Age range: 24-36 years Recruitment Snowball sampling method  Procedures In-depth qualitative interviews from 1-2 hrs
Analysis Inductive thematic analysis guided by, but not limited to, the framework of liminality. Grounded theory coding techniques (Strauss and Corbin, 1990) Three emerging themes
Findings Changing self identity Rearrangement of identity to fit in the required organization due to interaction “So coming to the US and the grad school experience   What changed in me would be definitely I became less emotional that is less sensitive, less bothered. Or I learnt to you know ..you learn to be your own support system you know not let things affect you.” Not static because  	I don’t know..if you have a family here, I am sure that makes a huge difference.  	... I mean there were a bunch of things all thrown at you all at the same time..and its like a test ..how do you do it?..how do you handle things but I am thankful to all the sanskars that you know came
Findings Changing professional self (Ibbara, 1999) I think it was more on the professional front..we are not trained like to present in front of an audience..you know something which is not natural. But we didn’t have  an opportunity to . But here..I mean..its more on the professional front, the work front that I experienced a difference. Specially the research aspect of it..you know kind of make sure you do everything according to the system. Also In India, we don’t make a big deal out of it but here its because you are facing stress. We can definitely have a bit relaxed professional attitude here.
Findings Cultural identity “Come with an open mind ..you have to just grow into this culture..you cannot follow the Indian culture…the Indian way of studies..you have follow their (US) pattern.” Not a monolithic narrative because 	“In a lot of ways I cannot let go of my culture..I just can’t.”
Discussion State of flux or temporality of Indian women engineers in US programs flux is not temporary but a permanent liminal period in their life The self identity, professional identity and the cultural identity are continually negotiated and renegotiated within the framework of liminal states

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Cultural negotiations of Indian women in U.S. engineering classrooms

  • 1. Shared discourses of the liminal tribe: Indian women graduates in U.S. engineering programs Debalina Dutta and Lorraine Kisselburgh Department of Communication Purdue University
  • 2. Introduction US engineering schools are a popular choice for international students Purdue University is one of the top five recruiters (NSF, 2009) In Purdue, out of the 2680 enrollments in engineering graduate program in Fall 2010, 262 were international female students (Purdue Data Digest)
  • 3. Rationale International students face numerous cultural adjustments (Rochlich & Martin, 1991) Female international students face additional socio-emotional challenges (Verthalyi, 1997) By reconstructing narratives of international female students in engineering programs, one can understand gender inequities in the engineering programs (Verthalyi, 1997)
  • 4. Indian women in US engineering classrooms
  • 5. Trichotomization of their identities Engineering classroom culture in India (Gupta, 2007; Kumar, 2001) Patrifocality (Mukhopadhyaya & Seymour, 1994) US Engineering classroom culture (Leonardi, 2003; Tonso, 1999) Messages Macrodiscourses on Patrifocality(Mukhopadhyaya & Seymour, 1994) Microdiscourses on efficacy (Verthalyi, 1997)
  • 6.
  • 8.
  • 9.
  • 12. Guided by rites, traditions and rules of society to which they once belonged,
  • 13.
  • 15. Liminality Applying liminality theory to the context of Indian engineers in US engineering programs (gendered organizational sites), the study aims to examine the “liminal status” of international women in the gendered space of engineering attending to the intersections of self, occupation, organization and culture. Using this framework, we argue that the culture of origin and the culture of destination are not mutually exclusive, but instead occupy simultaneous space in the life of an individual and plays an important role in organizational negotiations.
  • 16. Research questions What are the struggles and negotiations of Indian women engineers in US engineering graduate programs? How do Indian women navigate and negotiate the transitions between multiple cultures, organizational cultures, and identities?
  • 17. Method Participants (N=10) Indian women engineers (post-graduate) Age range: 24-36 years Recruitment Snowball sampling method Procedures In-depth qualitative interviews from 1-2 hrs
  • 18. Analysis Inductive thematic analysis guided by, but not limited to, the framework of liminality. Grounded theory coding techniques (Strauss and Corbin, 1990) Three emerging themes
  • 19. Findings Changing self identity Rearrangement of identity to fit in the required organization due to interaction “So coming to the US and the grad school experience What changed in me would be definitely I became less emotional that is less sensitive, less bothered. Or I learnt to you know ..you learn to be your own support system you know not let things affect you.” Not static because I don’t know..if you have a family here, I am sure that makes a huge difference. ... I mean there were a bunch of things all thrown at you all at the same time..and its like a test ..how do you do it?..how do you handle things but I am thankful to all the sanskars that you know came
  • 20. Findings Changing professional self (Ibbara, 1999) I think it was more on the professional front..we are not trained like to present in front of an audience..you know something which is not natural. But we didn’t have an opportunity to . But here..I mean..its more on the professional front, the work front that I experienced a difference. Specially the research aspect of it..you know kind of make sure you do everything according to the system. Also In India, we don’t make a big deal out of it but here its because you are facing stress. We can definitely have a bit relaxed professional attitude here.
  • 21. Findings Cultural identity “Come with an open mind ..you have to just grow into this culture..you cannot follow the Indian culture…the Indian way of studies..you have follow their (US) pattern.” Not a monolithic narrative because “In a lot of ways I cannot let go of my culture..I just can’t.”
  • 22. Discussion State of flux or temporality of Indian women engineers in US programs flux is not temporary but a permanent liminal period in their life The self identity, professional identity and the cultural identity are continually negotiated and renegotiated within the framework of liminal states
  • 23. Implications Current theories of occupational and organizational socialization are premised upon an assumption that socialization is a permanent state of change. In the case of international professionals in global contexts, liminal states may be ongoing and constantly negotiated, creating complex intersections with occupational, organizational, and cultural identities. Professional development of international women engineers should recognize and tailor programs to provide support.
  • 24. Acknowledgements Women engineers who participated in the study Our anonymous reviewers for helpful feedback
  • 25. Open discussion We welcome A visual model of the relation of liminality as a framework to self identity, professional identity and cultural identity for Indian female engineering graduates in US classrooms
  • 26. Contact Debalina: ddutta@purdue.edu Lorraine: lorraine@purdue.edu