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Social Enterprise Model for a Multi-Institutional Mentoring Network for Women in STEM

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2018 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity Conference


Crystal City, Virginia

Publication Date

April 29, 2018

Start Date

April 29, 2018

End Date

May 2, 2018

Conference Session

Faculty Track - Technical Session I

Tagged Topics

Diversity and Faculty

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Paper Authors


Sara A. Atwood Elizabethtown College

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Dr. Sara A. Atwood is an Associate Professor and Chair of Engineering at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania. She holds a B.A. and M.S. from Dartmouth College, and Ph.D, in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Atwood’s research interests are in creativity, engineering design, first-generation and low-income students, internship experiences, and criterion-based course structures.

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Robin McCann Shippensburg University

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Alice Armstrong Shippensburg University


Bilita S. Mattes Harrisburg University of Science and Technology

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Dr. Mattes is the Executive Director (and founding member) of the STEM-UP Network, a social enterprise powered by Harrisburg University of Science and Technology. STEM-UP is a community that supports women in STEM to persist, thrive, and advance. She also serves as the Provost and Chief Academic Officer at Harrisburg University. She has 25 years of experience with leadership roles in higher education, including responsibilities such as program development, faculty development, and academic outreach and strategic partnerships.

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STEM-UP PA was launched through an NSF-ADVANCE grant with the mission of supporting academic women in STEM from a consortium of teaching-focused institutions in the central Pennsylvania region. Unlike many ADVANCE grants awarded to large research institutions, STEM-UP PA brings together women from teaching-focused regional colleges and universities who face similar challenges but are isolated in their small STEM departments. This paper focuses on the establishment and growth of a multi-institutional mentoring network, as well as the model for supporting the network beyond the term of the ADVANCE funding (2012-2015).

The mentoring network is administered by a volunteer Executive Committee, which matches junior and senior faculty members and administrators according to a survey of strengths and needs, both within and across institutions. The annual program includes orientation training and goal setting, a structured mentoring relationship with monthly meetings and bi-annual phone check-ins with the executive committee, and approximately three career-focused workshops where all participants gather. These workshops include a networking component designed to support the mentoring relationship and foster additional relationships among STEM faculty across central Pennsylvania.

The mentoring network has grown to a 2017 cohort of 44 participants in seven STEM disciplines, traveling up to 100 miles from 21 colleges and universities. Core workshop topics have included Work/Life Balance, Writing Productivity, and Self-Advocacy, as well as annual Symposia on Collaborative Research Opportunities and Innovative Teaching and Improving Teaching Evaluations. Program evaluation shows almost all involved women have remained in academia and advanced through the ranks while feeling less isolated. An innovative sustainable funding model is being piloted by transitioning to a non-profit social business model that extends programming to STEM women in industry and government. Industry sponsors gain access to a pipeline of local graduating women in STEM while improving their workplace culture for diverse employees.

Atwood, S. A., & McCann, R., & Armstrong, A., & Mattes, B. S. (2018, April), Social Enterprise Model for a Multi-Institutional Mentoring Network for Women in STEM Paper presented at 2018 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity Conference, Crystal City, Virginia.

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