Coleen Carrigan

Coleen Carrigan

Associate Professor


  • Critical race feminist theory
  • Cultural anthropology
  • Science and technology studies
  • Medical anthropology
  • Ethnography
  • Action research
  • Class theory
  • Intersectionality
  • Engineering education
  • Critical methodologies
  • Broadening participation
  • Diversity

Contact Information


About Coleen Carrigan

Coleen CarriganDr. Coleen Carrigan is a feminist anthropologist and an Associate Professor of Gender, Race, Culture, Science and Technology Studies at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. She earned her PhD in Sociocultural Anthropology at the University of Washington (UW) and was a Postdoctoral Scholar at the UW ADVANCE Center for Institutional Change.

She investigates the historical and cultural dimensions of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), with a particular emphasis on Computer Science and Engineering, and why these high-status fields appear impervious to desegregation. Carrigan weaves together three threads of research to elucidate this vexing problem and sustainable solutions to it. First, she uses action-oriented ethnography to document women’s lived experiences as marginalized members of STEM fields, the ways they navigate the politics of gender and race and the rites of passage in high-tech communities that reproduce inequalities and the ideological divide between the social and the technical. Second, she studies women’s intersectional identities and feminist consciousness and excavates the collective actions and values critical to demanding and enacting institutional change in STEM cultures. Third, she examines cultures of STEM knowledge production through the experiences and perspectives of undergraduate students from marginalized standpoints. She applies her research findings to create interventions that help foster welcoming environments for underrepresented groups in STEM and transform the powers of technology to advance social justice. 

Carrigan’s work has been cited in USA TodayScienceThe Seattle TimesLA Times and Inside Higher Ed and is funded by the National Science Foundation, the Luce Foundation, the Cal Poly Provost’s Office, the Cal Poly Center for Expressive Technologies and the American Association of University Women (AAUW). 

Courses Taught

  • ANT 201: Cultural Anthropology
  • ANT 401: Culture and Health
  • ANT 460: Queer Anthropology
  • ANT/ISLA 393: Action Oriented Ethnography 
  • WGS/ES 350: Gender, Race, Culture, Science and Technology
  • ISLA 456: Advanced Project-Based Learning in Science, Technology & Society

Selected Research

  • CAREER: Valuing the Social in Engineering and Computer Science
    • Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) shapes our social, political and economic environments, yet struggles to attract and retain a diversity of practitioners. Why does CSE remain stubbornly segregated when it comes to gender parity? The project's findings articulate and forge pathways toward broadening participation in CSE and fostering welcoming environments for women to participate in CSE with equal opportunities, resources, and regard. 
      • PI: Coleen Carrigan,, 805-756-2727
      • Engineering Education Centers. NSF 1751314
  • NAVIGATE: A Case-Study Approach to Overcoming Barriers to Advancement for Women in STEM
    • NAVIGATE, an interdisciplinary collaboration between scholars at Cal poly and University at Buffalo, is an innovative training program that uses case studies to support female graduate students' persistence in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The goals of the case studies are to form community among participants and share the tools, resources, and skills they require to serve as change agents in the diversification of the scientific workforce
      • Cal Poly PI: Coleen Carrigan
      • University at Buffalo PI: Liesl Folks
      • Research Traineeship Program. NSF 1735218-DGE
  • Launching Academic on the Tenure-Track: An Intentional Community in Engineering (LATTICE)
    • The LATTICE team is a coherent group of scholars, each with her own voice, that leverages our multidimensional differences and experiences to advance change and diversity in academia. A collaboration between colleagues at UW, NCSU, and Cal Poly, LATTICE adapts, articulates, and disseminates an existing professional development model to support the persistence and advancement of underrepresented groups in engineering faculty careers. The ethnographic component studies the cultural values, practices, relationships and politics of the organizers and our impacts on LATTICE participants.
      • Cal Poly PI: Coleen Carrigan
      • University of Washington PI: Joyce Yen
      • ADVANCE Plan-D NSF 14-573
  • Advancing Cultural Change
    • Advancing Cultural Change engages Cal Poly undergraduates in ethnographic research to explore campus culture and the lived experiences of its community members. 680 students from over forty majors have investigated disciplinary cultures on campus in Carrigan's course. Carrigan and her research team create case studies from the data to engage students, faculty and academic leaders, at the local and national level, to share of best practices and strategies for diversity and inclusivity and catalyze transformational changes in higher education.
      • PI: Coleen Carrigan
      • Cal Poly Provost's Office and Chancellor's Office Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities Grant.

Click here to see Dr. Carrigan's Google Scholar Page 

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