Challenging male stereotypes : male student engagement in a co-curricular, interdisciplinary program
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The gender gap in American college attendance has grown over four decades (see for example, Sax, 2008). The National Center for Educational Statistics noted that women received 57 percent of all bachelor's degrees conferred in 2009-2010. Furthermore, women engage in college opportunities inside and outside the classroom at greater rates than men. Engagement opportunities connect students to their college environment, support student learning, and contribute to student persistence (see for example, Astin, 1993). However, little research is available that focuses on which specific co-curricular opportunities men and women choose and any gender differences in engagement that exist within those programs (Sax, 2008). Many colleges offer interdisciplinary programs as a co-curricular student engagement option. Interdisciplinary studies allow students to study broad topics from many disciplinary perspectives and synthesize the various methods and theories for an often better understanding of the topic at hand (Newell, 1992). However, there is a paucity of research regarding gender differences in students who choose to pursue interdisciplinary programs. The purpose of the study was to investigate why male students choose or choose not to get involved in a specific interdisciplinary program at a large research institution in the southwestern United States. Moreover, the study examined the perceptions of administrators regarding male student involvement and their strategies to recruit male students. The study design was qualitative, and interviews of students and program administrators were the primary data source. The researcher employed two conceptual frameworks in the study: Terenzini and Reason's (2005) college experience model and Harris' (2010) model of the meanings college men make of masculinities. Key findings of the study indicated that there was a gender imbalance in student engagement in the interdisciplinary program. Furthermore, male students interested in the interdisciplinary program eschewed masculine norms both in their co-curricular pursuits and their academic interests. The study contributes to the field of student affairs by focusing on a research gap in male student engagement in interdisciplinary programs. By examining engagement experiences through the lens of male gender identity, the study provides rich data and offers strategies to student affairs practitioners.