This qualitative study involves tracking the process by which Asian STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) graduate students encounter graduate studies as they build professional identities. We derived data from interviews and observations of 27 Asian international STEM graduate students at various stages of their graduate careers at a large research university located in the United States. The following research question guided this investigation: What are key influencers of STEM students’ professional identity? We conducted this study using a qualitative grounded theory approach, and we developed a central professional identity development model from emergent themes that related to the central phenomenon. Findings indicated Asian international STEM graduate students’ previous work experiences, disciplinary skills acquisition, English proficiency, and socialization with peers and faculty advisors were significant influential factors to their professional identity development. These influencers interacted to both positively facilitate and negatively hinder the student’s progress toward professional identity development. Together, this work suggests academic socialization is a crucial factor for student success and professional identity development.
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