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Building and Evaluating a Multi-tiered Mentor Program to Introduce Research to High School Women

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Pre-college Engineering Education Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Katherine C. Chen Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Dr. Katherine C. Chen is the Executive Director of the STEM Education Center at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). Her degrees in Materials Science and Engineering are from Michigan State University and MIT. Her research interests include pre-college engineering education, teacher education, and equity in education.

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Tiffiny Antionette Butler Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Dr. Butler joined the faculty at WPI after completing a postdoctoral fellowship in biomedical engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 2016. Dr. Butler received her masters and doctoral degrees in Kinesiology (Athletic Training, Integrative Exercise Physiology) with her research interests focused on skeletal and bone biomechanics. She combines her love for education, exercise science, and her passion for diversity, and inclusion in her current position as a Teaching Professor in BME and the Director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs at WPI. Dr. Butler fosters a student community at WPI that respects and celebrates diversity in all its dimensions, including but not limited the many intersectional identities of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, and physical ability.

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Suzanne Sontgerath Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Sontgerath holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and an M.Ed. from Worcester State University. She is currently the Director of Pre-collegiate Outreach Programs at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Sontgerath supervises K-12 STEM outreach programs at WPI including Camp Reach and several other summer and academic year programs for students and parents.

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Ryan Nicole Meadows Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Ryan Meadows holds a B.S. in Mathematics and Business from Fitchburg State University and an M.A. in Teaching from Sacred Heart University. She is currently the Associate Director of Pre-collegiate Outreach Programs at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Meadows works with K-12 S STEM outreach programs during the summer and academic year.

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X University has developed the Women’s Research and Mentoring Program (WRAMP) with the goal of encouraging more women to consider advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Development of the WRAMP program has followed an iterative process using formative feedback from previous WRAMP sessions to adjust the model for improved success. This paper will discuss the evolution of the WRAMP program model with three (3) iterations, the successful recruitment of high school participants from underserved populations within the local public schools, and program evaluation from the perspective of the high school women, undergraduate and graduate mentors.

The WRAMP program originated from the desire to have continued engagement with high school students who participated in our summer pre-college programs and a colleague’s comment about wishing to have more professional development opportunities for graduate students. Our collective goal has been to provide meaningful, high-touch experiences with students from underrepresented groups in STEM and students from our local, urban neighborhoods. Thus, WRAMP was created through an internal grant and allows high school women to engage in hands-on STEM research in state of the art research laboratories under the guidance of women graduate student role models.

WRAMP started out with five (5) pairs of a graduate student and high school student doing research for 2-4 hours per week for one semester, and then with each cycle, improvements were made from a programmatic standpoint and from a recruitment/participation aspect. After three cycles of the program, we now have six (6) WRAMP teams consisting of two high school students from local public schools, one undergraduate, and one graduate student working together. Bringing the three populations together provides a unique mentoring scaffold that serves to encourage the high school women and undergraduate women to consider advanced degrees while also providing the graduate students with valuable teaching and mentoring opportunities. We also have increased the diversity of our participants with strategic adjustments each cycle.

Program elements for the high-school students include: two required weekend sessions with the entire WRAMP group, two individual team sessions for mentoring/socializing (with materials provided to mentors to help them coach high school participants in the development of professional skills and understanding of the college selection process), and 2-5 hours of lab time weekly for 10 weeks. In addition, undergraduate and graduate women participate in two one-hour professional development workshops covering topics such as mentoring and being a role model in a lab; promoting a “growth mindset” and incorporating inclusive pedagogy when mentoring; leveraging the mentoring experience when applying for future career jobs. In order to encourage accountability and incentivize the graduate students, undergraduate students and the high school students, all program participants receive a stipend. Evaluation of the program is carried out via a pre/post survey model for the high school women, undergraduate mentors, and graduate mentors, and will be presented.

Chen, K. C., & Butler , T. A., & Sontgerath, S., & Meadows, R. N. (2020, June), Building and Evaluating a Multi-tiered Mentor Program to Introduce Research to High School Women Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34234

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