Sean Hickman
Professor, Electrical Technology

Minorities and women are under-represented in the technical courses I teach, as about 93% of the participants are white males.  Even though under-represented students have equal opportunities in the classroom, I often find that their prerequisite skills are lacking when compared to their traditional counterparts.  This shortfall is not due to a lack of intelligence or motivation, but most likely the result of a lack of equitable preparation.  I feel that this inequity perpetuates the myth that women and minorities are not suited for this type of a technical career.

Susie is a female minority who enrolled in my class as part of her apprenticeship program. She entered the course after barely meeting the minimum pre-requisites and struggled in the class right from the start.  Susie, a product of the Lansing School District, felt that she was unprepared for the rigors of college as compared to her peers from the surrounding Lansing districts.  Furthermore, Susie explained her lack of interest in the subject matter, which made it more difficult to learn the course material.  Her most significant admission was the fact that she had only applied for the apprenticeship program because it provided a high wage.  She actually thought she wanted to be a social worker, but could not afford to go back to school to earn the bachelor’s and master’s degrees needed for employment in this field.

I tried to help Susie by teaming her with a male student, who not only had a lot of knowledge related to the course, but who was also was outspoken and passionate about the material.  The male student helped convey a sense of safety with respect to the classroom and content, which led to Susie spending considerable time working with me outside of the scheduled class period. It was during this time that Susie and I developed a strong relationship, as I was able to work with her on a near one-to-one basis.  Our relationship became even more important when the male student stopped showing up for class half way through the term.  Susie was on her own, but by this time, trusted me enough to push forward with the class.  My expressed belief in Susie helped her find success with the course content, which led to confidence and, subsequently, acceptance that her apprenticeship could lead to a job that she was capable of mastering.

Susie is doing well in her job and occasionally emails me with life updates and work accomplishments.  I am proud that my efforts at LCC have helped her understand, not only the course material, but also that success at work is obtainable by someone working in a non-traditional technical field.