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Engaging Women in Engineering- Training Mentors to Make a Difference (iTEST 1849735): Transforming Curriculum and Mentor Training in a Highly Successful Natural Science Program

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2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Minneapolis, MN

Publication Date

August 23, 2022

Start Date

June 26, 2022

End Date

June 29, 2022

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Jacqueline Genovesi Drexel University

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Ian Marcus Drexel University

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Kimberly Sterin Drexel University


Dominique Thomas Drexel University

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Dominique Thomas is the Coordinator of Social Justice Programs, also known as Women in Natural Sciences at The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA. Dominique is former WINS, participating in the program from 2008-2012 and a proud WINS alumna. She attended Paul Robeson High School for Human Services and earned a bachelor’s degree from Temple University. WINS helped Dominique secure internships and employment with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Pocono Environmental Education Center and at the Academy of Natural Sciences.

After graduating from WINS, Dominique went on to further develop her leadership skills at Temple University, seeking a degree in psychology with a minor in public health. Dominique joined the Service Immersion Program and participated in a study-abroad service trip to Costa Rica, where she volunteered with local community groups. She also served as a student leader for a Service Immersion Program in El Paso, participated in the Temple University Diamond Student Leadership program, acted as a program facilitator at the local Girls Inc., and mentored young people through Next Steps AmeriCorp.

After graduation, Dominique spent a year in China as an education and cultural ambassador in the Ameson Year in China program. Dominique continues to act as a youth advocate in local community organizations, including the Children’s Crisis Treatment Center and Covenant House Philadelphia. She uses trauma-informed practices to positively impact young people through positive decision-making that will impact their future.

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Abstract While the gender gap of students pursuing degrees and working in STEM fields has been decreasing over the last few decades, a large gap persists in engineering; with women earning only 19.8% of undergraduate degrees and women of color earning less than 3%. One successful STEM intervention is a program based out of a natural history museum in a large urban city. This program trains and mentors a select group of urban high school women (100% low-income: 85% under-represented minorities) through a curated curriculum in the first year, followed by persistent mentorship by a scientist for the last three years of high school. The alumnae of the program all graduate high school, with 97% attending college (as opposed to 51% of women who graduate from the local school district), and 89% earning a 4-year degree, of which 54% are in STEM (vs. 1% of Black students in district). However, most of the alumnae now working in STEM are in the natural sciences with none in engineering.

Thus, to increase the number of future engineers and disseminate lessons that can be transferred to other curriculum and mentoring contexts, the goals of this project were to (1) design a new training and support program for adult engineers who mentor students. (2) Enhance the cultural relevancy of the curricula for students and their mentors. (3) Increase awareness among these mentors about implicit biases and stereotype barriers that impede the advancement of all women in STEM education and workforce. (4) Increase the number of students in the program pursuing higher education and careers in engineering.

To meet those goals, the curriculum of the successful program was modified to feature the engineering design process in a culturally responsive manner through collaboration with an engineering college and school of education to create the new program. In addition to the curriculum, this paper demonstrates the conceptual frameworks of Communities of Practice, Culturally Relevant Pedagogy, and a technique called Transformational Intergroup Dialogue to scaffold the emergence of mutually satisfying mentor-mentee relationships among individuals of differing social identities. To accomplish this, a mixed methods research design, capturing qualitative and quantitative data is being used. Qualitative methods include student journals, class observations, interviews, and focus groups. While quantitative data is collected from mentors through an Implicit Bias survey administered through Harvard University’s Project Implicit. Students’ interests and general dispositions toward engineering are gleaned from the Student Attitudes toward STEM Survey. The STEM career inventory survey is used to measure changes in young women’s self-efficacy in STEM, interest in STEM careers, and 21st century learning skills. To further track and clarify the development of student interest, the students and mentors are using a data log to record the frequency and quality of their contacts with each other. Lessons from this research will have impacts that extend beyond a museum and into large urban academic and industrial research sectors. It will contribute to knowledge about gender-specific interventions that develop interest, self-efficacy, and persistence in STEM career pathways, especially for women in engineering.

Genovesi, J., & Marcus, I., & Sterin, K., & Thomas, D. (2022, August), Engaging Women in Engineering- Training Mentors to Make a Difference (iTEST 1849735): Transforming Curriculum and Mentor Training in a Highly Successful Natural Science Program Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN.

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