Gendered Engineering Laboratories: Microcosms of Universities in Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda 
Meseret Hailu

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



Louise McBee Institute of Higher Education, University of Georgia

Primary Discipline

Higher Education
The underrepresentation of women in STEM is a perennial issue in the study of higher education. Studying women in engineering programs at private higher education institutions is necessary as these settings are uniquely positioned to lessen inequalities for women in STEM due to growing enrollment and institutional resources. This project focuses on the gendered dimension of university laboratories of three private universities in Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda. Using an institutional ethnography design, I explore engineering laboratory spaces, curricular materials, and the perspectives of engineering faculty to unpack the contextual factors that influence how women in East African countries navigate engineering programs in higher education. The research question driving this work is: what can be learned about equitable teaching experiences for women through a comparative study of engineering laboratory classrooms in private African institutions? Employing an African feminist worldview, my study illuminates how African faculty members design pedagogical approaches to create equitable learning environment; what messages are communicated based on artwork, signs, and other physical attributes of laboratory environments; how materials such as course syllabi, flyers, and physical laboratory materials are used; and how women engage in placemaking in engineering laboratories. This work allows me to extend the scope of my current scholarship on public universities in Africa to the rapidly proliferating sector of private higher education. Additionally, it will provide scholars and institutional policy makers with a better understanding of how to lessen the structural and interpersonal challenges that often encumber laboratory learning for women in East African postsecondary institutions. 
About Meseret Hailu
Dr. Meseret F. Hailu's research focuses on how institutions of higher education retain minoritized women in STEM pathways. Dr. Hailu is exploring two lines of research in 2023 concerning the experiences of undergraduate Black women in different geographic settings: East Africa and the United States. Her primary research agenda investigates how articulations of identity shape educational retention and reflect institutional culture. Methodologically, Dr. Hailu approaches her work through mixed methods, specializing in qualitative research. Her work has been published in top-tiered journals, including Comparative Education Review, Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, and Research in Higher Education. Additionally, she has received funding from the Fulbright Program, National Science Foundation, and the United States Agency for International Development. Prior to coming to ASU, Dr. Hailu was a Postdoctoral Research Associate at The Ohio State University, where she studied the experiences of women of color faculty in engineering departments. She received her Ph.D. from the Morgridge College of Education at the University of Denver, an M.S. from Regis University, and a B.S./B.A. from the University of Denver.

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