Publication Date

Spring 2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)




Bradley Porfilio

Subject Areas

Educational leadership


Over the last decade the Bay Area region has witnessed a lack of diversity in Silicon Valley technology professions, a subject of current political and popular discourse. The California State University (CSU) system provides accessible higher education; the CSU system approach to accessible higher education affirms the distinctness of regions, prepares graduates for professions in these distinct regions, and affirms the diversity in the state and the world. The CSU fall 2019 - 2021 enrollment dashboard data indicated there was a decrease in enrollment of underrepresented minority (URM) in graduate programs across three Bay Area campuses. Public fall 20119 - 2021 enrollment data disaggregated by degree program indicates URM participation in Computer and Information Sciences decreased to less than 10% of the graduate student body across the three Bay Area campuses; URM enrollment levels a decrease to approximately 10% at the graduate level in Engineering. Graduate education is a lever of social mobility, professional advancement, and provides opportunities to access knowledge economy professions.The Bay Area CSU campuses are situated at the nexus of the knowledge economy. The decrease in URM student participation in related disciplines at the graduate level is a problem of practice that raises questions of the role and mission of the CSU. Equity in opportunity in a regional economy dominated by technology professions intersects with CSU graduate education as a lever of social change and social mobility. Underrepresentation of minorities in technology professions and in graduate education is not without social consequences. A homogenous Bay Area knowledge economy workforce may result in new layers of digital infrastructures and applications that reinforce dominant cultural perspectives and biases. This qualitative research study explores the experiences, perceptions, and attitudes of URM graduate students in Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) disciplines at three public universities situated in the Silicon Valley knowledge economy. A transformative worldview and critical theory guide case study data collection and analysis of semi-structured interviews, a focus group, and qualitative textual analysis of related CSE policy, research, and graduate community content at the three Bay Area CSU campuses. This exploratory research study attempts to uncover the sense making and meanings URM graduate students construct through the graduate student lifecycle. This study focuses on graduate students who succeed in academic cultures that are selective, competitive, homogenous, and that may be unwelcoming. This research may guide higher education reform to recognize inherent assets, talents, and aspirations URM students bring into academic culture and thus reshape campus cultures toward diversity and inclusion.