Understanding Undergraduate Atmospheric Science Students' Sense of Belonging

Monday 4:30pm-6:00pm SERC Building - Atrium | Poster #3
Poster Session Part of Monday Poster Session


Haylie Nicole Mikulak, Auburn University Main Campus
karen mcneal, Auburn University Main Campus
​Sense of belonging is defined as an individual's feelings on how they fit in with a group, community, or organization including a person's undergraduate program. These personal and internal feelings can play a significant role in retention across STEM disciplines. The field of meteorology and atmospheric science is continuing to look for ways to improve the culture and climate of the field in order to have more diverse representation. One step to help achieve this goal is by increasing undergraduates' sense of belonging during their studies. This study utilized semi-structured interviews with current atmospheric science undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and non-academic career professionals in the United States and Canada. Interviews were conducted over Zoom where respondents discussed their definition of sense of belonging as well as their experiences with belonging in their undergraduate program. An important aspect of the interviews were the suggestions the interviewees provided to departments, which could be utilized to improve departmental climate and culture in the future. Deductive and inductive approaches to thematic coding were used to analyze the interviews. Additionally, to quantify the themes across the interview responses, coding frequency percentages were calculated. The results of this study serve as an opportunity to provide feedback to the larger community of undergraduate atmospheric science departments on ways to increase sense of belonging of their students. This in turn can be utilized to attract, retain, and sustain a more diverse group of atmospheric scientists in the future.