Asee peer logo

Establishing a Women’s Mentorship Network in a STEM Learning Community

Download Paper |


2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Undergraduate Student Issues II

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.546.1 - 23.546.15



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Melissa A Dagley University of Central Florida

visit author page

Melissa Dagley is the Executive Director of Initiatives in STEM (iSTEM) at the University of Central Florida. Dr. Dagley serves as Director and Co-PI of the NSF-funded STEP 1a and 1b programs “EXCEL:UCF-STEP Pathways to STEM: From Promise to Prominence" and “Convincing Outstanding-Math-Potential Admits to Succeed in STEM (COMPASS)”. She is currently a Co-PI for the Girls EXCELling in Math and Science (GEMS) and WISE@UCF industry funded women’s mentoring initiatives. Through iSTEM Dr. Dagley works to promote and enhance collaborative efforts on STEM education and research by bringing together colleges, centers, and institutes on campus, as well as other stakeholders with similar interest in STEM initiatives. Her research interests lie in the areas of student access to education, sense of community, retention, first-year experience, living-learning communities, and persistence to graduation for students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics programs.

visit author page


Nirmala Ramlakhan Nee-Moh, Inc

visit author page

Situated in the unique space straddling both academia and industry, Dr. Ramlakhan uses her 13 years of experience in education, workforce and career development to drive STEM agendas. Currently she serves as the CEO of Nee-Moh, Inc., a nonprofit supporting STEM startups and small businesses. A former VP of Strategic Initiatives and Research at a workforce board, she created regional STEM and New and Emerging Industry initiatives. Created programs were funded at $3.5 million dollars annually and impacted more than 250,000 students, parents and teachers. Initiatives launched under the STEM Targeted Industry included camps, mentoring programs, professional development and undergraduate research experiences. Dr. Ramlakhan liaises with school districts, multinational organizations, nonprofits, colleges/universities and national trade organizations to drive program development and STEM entrepreneurship. Aiming to fill regional talent and career development gaps in STEM, Dr. Ramlakhan secured, through partnership, over $18 million for Florida organizations over the past 13 years. As a member of the International Advisory committee for the National Science Teachers Association, Dr. Ramlakhan works with leaders shaping international science education agendas. Efforts in international arenas enable Dr. Ramlakhan to extend her personal desire to increase opportunities for females within STEM industries.

visit author page


Cynthia Y. Young University of Central Florida

visit author page

Cynthia Young is an Associate Dean and Professor of Mathematics in the UCF College of Sciences. She is the PI of an NSF Funded Step 1B program called COMPASS, a Co-PI of the NSF-funded S-STEM program at UCF entitled the "Young Entrepreneur and Scholar(YES) Scholarship Program" as well as the NSF-funded STEP program entitled "EXCEL:UCF-STEP Pathways to STEM: From Promise to Prominence." Dr. Young's interests are in improving STEM education.

visit author page


Michael Georgiopoulos University of Central Florida

visit author page

Michael Georgiopoulos received the Diploma in EE from the National
Technical University in Athens, his MS degree and Ph.D. degree in EE
from the University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, in 1981, 1983 and
1986, respectively. He is currently a Professor in the Department of EECS
at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, FL. From September 2011 to June 2012 he served as the Interim Assistant Vice President of Research at the Office of Research and Commercialization. Since July 2012 he is serving as the Interim Dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

His research interests lie in the areas of Machine Learning and applications with
special emphasis on neural network and neuro-evolutionary algorithms,
and their applications. He has published more than 60 journal papers
and more than 170 conference papers in a variety of conference and
journal venues. He has been an Associate Editor of the IEEE Transactions on Neural Networks from 2002 to 2006, and an Associate Editor of the Neural Networks journal from 2006 to 2012. He has served as the Technical Co-Chair of the IJCNN 2011.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Establishing a Women’s Mentorship Network in a STEM Learning CommunityThe goal of the living-learning community (LLC) under review is to increase the number of U.S.citizens and, where possible, increase the number of underrepresented students obtaining a in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM). To achieve this goal, theLLC faculty and staff have designed a learning community around a carefully thought out set ofeducational activities. Because the first two years in college have been found to be the mostcritical for a student’s success in a STEM discipline, the LLC activities are focused on this timeframe. Though successful in the goal of retention to graduation for both men and women, theparticipating women were being retained at a lower rate than their male counterparts. To addressthe issue, the LLC, in conjunction with industry partners, created a two-phased approach tomentoring young women in the STEM disciplines.There is extensive evidence in the literature that student mentorship works in improving studentlearning (Girves, et al., 2005). Despite the absence of a comprehensive theory of whatmentorship is, there are four major domains or latent variables comprising the mentoringconcept, as identified by Nora and Crisp (2007). The four latent constructs include: (1)psychological and emotional support, (2) support for setting goals and choosing a career path,(3) academic subject knowledge support aimed at advancing a student’s knowledge relevant totheir chosen field, and (4) specification of a role model. Each participant in the women’smentorship network receives a number of mentors at various stages of their college experienceincluding two structured mentoring opportunities which occur in the freshman and sophomoreyears. Haring (1997, 1999) refers to this type of mentoring model as a networking mentorshipmodel, and considers it as more inclusive and egalitarian.The initiatives, co-sponsored by industry partners, provide for peer mentors in the freshman yearand industry mentors in the sophomore year. A key characteristic of a strong mentoringrelationship is similarity (including gender/ethnicity) particularly for groups typicallyunderrepresented in STEM. In each phase of the two year mentoring network, students areindividually matched with their mentors based on like characteristics (i.e., gender, math ability,discipline, career interests). After only one year, positive results are being shown in the decreaseof the difference between male and female first-year retention in the STEM disciplines. Thispaper will aid practitioners in the steps to establishing and assessing a mentorship network,provide details of the mentoring components, and show how the LLC has partnered with industryfor the success of the students in the program.Girves, J.E., Zepeda, Y., & Gwathmey, J.K. (2005). Mentoring in post-affirmative action world. Journal of Social Issues, 61(3), 449-479.Haring, M. J. (1997). Networking mentoring as a preferred model for guiding programs for underrepresented students. In H. T. Frierson, Jr. (Ed.), Diversity in higher education: Vol. 1. Mentoring and diversity in higher education (pp. 63–76). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.Haring, M. J. (1999). “The case for a conceptual base for minority mentoring programs.” Peabody Journal of Education, 74(2), 5–14. In “How to mentor graduate students, A guide for faculty.” Rackham Graduate School, University of Michigan, 2009.Nora, A., & Crisp, G. (2007). “Mentoring students: Conceptualizing and validating the multi- dimensions of a support system.” Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory and Practice, 9(3), 337–356.

Dagley, M. A., & Ramlakhan, N., & Young, C. Y., & Georgiopoulos, M. (2013, June), Establishing a Women’s Mentorship Network in a STEM Learning Community Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19560

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2013 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015