Date Approved


Graduate Degree Type


Degree Name

Education (M.Ed.)

Degree Program

College of Education

First Advisor

Donald Mitchell Jr.

Second Advisor

Mary Bair

Third Advisor

Susan Carson

Academic Year



Despite surpassing undergraduate men in degree completion, undergraduate women are still underrepresented in certain STEM majors and depart from these fields at higher rates. Much of the existing research on this topic, however, is quantitative in nature and conducted at large research institutions. This study sought to gain a better understanding of the reasons why undergraduate women switched from STEM to non-STEM majors at a large, Midwest liberal arts institution. A qualitative, phenomenological design was used to identify the reasons students identify as important in their decision to switch majors, the ways in which gender might have been tied to this decision and the changes institutions might implement to encourage the persistence of future undergraduate women in STEM fields. Data were collected through semistructured interviews and Astin’s (1993) input-environment-outcomes model and Tinto’s (1993) theory of student departure served as a theoretical framework. Findings provide insight on the lived experiences of undergraduate women who departed from STEM majors and the factors that contributed to their departure.

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