Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name



Nutrition and Food Science

First Advisor

Maria Pontes Ferreira


Introduction: Minorities are underrepresented in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce, post-secondary STEM education, and show high academic attrition rates. Academic performance and retention improve when culturally relevant support is provided. The interface of Western Science and Indigenous Science provides an opportunity for bridging this divide. This three parts project is an example of Community-based participatory research (CBPR) that aims to support academic institutions that serve minority students in STEM, and implement educational components (pedagogy) to serve the needs of the underserved community. Method: Part 1: was a cross-sectional used a survey given to participants designed to assess prevalence of natural health products use by students, and to determine how students learn about NHPs. Part 2: was a longitudinal survey pilot study based upon an online STEM course offer at four universities to determine the differences between U.S. vs. Canadian and minority vs. non-minority university students regarding their perceptions of traditional Elders as STEM co-educators, interest in STEM, and science identity by using a pre-and post- course survey. Part 3: was a longitudinal quasi-experiment based upon an online STEM course offered at four universities show what Indigenous science claims regarding: Elders are viewed as valuable STEM co-educators; Elders increase student interest in STEM; students exposed to Indigenous science improve their identity as a scientist; students exposed to Indigenous Science/Elders show improved learning outcomes. Result: We found that Native/Aboriginal students learn information about natural health products from traditional Elders significantly more so than non-Native/Aboriginal students. There were no statistically significant results from the pilot study. Findings from the quasi-experiment show that students taught with Indigenous science Elder co-educators have significantly greater interest in STEM than students not exposed to Elders' teachings. Minority students reported significantly less self-identification as a scientist than did White students at pre-course, but report similar identity as a scientist to White students post-course. Discussion: Future work should investigate the role of Elder traditional educators to convey NHPs information directed specifically to Aboriginal university students. We expect that Elder co-educators may then impact student science identity and interest in STEM. We expect that Elder co-educators may then impact student science identity and interest in STEM. Although there were no statistically significant results from the pilot study, the observed trends suggest that Indigenous science Elder educators merit involvement in novel pedagogical approaches and delivery modalities to reach minority students and to increase students' interest in STEM. From quasi-experiment we attribute these findings to the impact of culturally competent course content to minority students especially, in a post-secondary STEM class. This work establishes the need for convergence of Indigenous science and Western STEM in academia.