New Orleans, Louisiana
February 20, 2022
February 20, 2022
July 20, 2022
Diversity and CoNECD Paper Sessions
Key Words: Undergraduate, Gender, Engineering, Engineering Technology
Purpose: Many female undergraduate Engineering students struggle during their first and second years of college with finding their place and questioning whether they belong in Engineering. It has been shown that mentoring programs can help encourage women to stay in engineering fields. The University started a Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) mentoring program in Fall 2019, and continued it through the pandemic, during the Spring and Fall 2020, and Spring 2021 terms. The purpose of this presentation is to provide mentoring program best practices that we applied and assessed that had a positive impact on women’s feeling of community, connectedness, and engagement in the mentoring program.
Method: To originally develop the mentoring program and capture the Voice of the Customer (VOC) from women in science and engineering, we applied the Lean Six Sigma quality and process improvement methodology and tools. We then used additional VOC mixed methods to assess the impact of the first four semesters of the WISE mentoring program on engagement and satisfaction, as well as retention and GPAs of women within the program, compared to a control group of women who did not go through the program. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the success of the program was also assessed. We implemented many creative and interesting mentoring activities that included one-on-one peer mentoring, cohort networking, networking between the students and women faculty, and even virtual mentoring cohort activities during the pandemic.
Findings: The WISE program includes engineering majors, engineering technology majors, science majors, and health science majors. Students have the option of living in the WISE living learning community their first year of college in a dormitory. All of the WISE living learning community members live on the same floor and typically have one other roommate that is also in the WISE living learning community. The goal of the WISE living learning community is to create a supportive network of first year WISE students by living together, taking classes together, and going to WISE living learning community events together. The WISE living learning community started at the University in 2008. The University has approximately 9,000 undergraduate students and the WISE program aims to bring the first-year female WISE students together. First year female WISE majors have the option to participate in WISE in varying ways. They can choose to live in the WISE living learning community. They can be “on the WISE list” which means that they are on the WISE email list and made aware of all WISE events throughout the year. Female WISE majors have the option of joining the WISE email list throughout their first few weeks on campus and can be added at any time throughout the year. They also can choose to be a board member for the WISE program that plan all the events. The first-year female WISE students can additionally choose to be in the WISE mentoring program. However, to have any involvement in WISE, the students must be a female WISE major. The goal of the mentoring program is to help Women in Science and Engineering make connections and grow to form a successful and supportive network of women. In the WISE Mentoring program there was a mix of all WISE majors in the program. The mentoring program was designed to implement one-on-one peer mentoring within the WISE program, incorporate mentoring cohort activities, and provide networking opportunities with faculty and students in engineering and science disciplines. The program pairs first year students with an upperclassman student who will be their mentor throughout the year. A graduate student facilitates the mentoring program. The graduate student recruits mentors and mentees by contacting upper classmen and first year students that are on the WISE email list. Everyone that signs up fills out a survey that asks about their major, hobbies, and interests. The graduate student then pairs up the students to make a mentor pair based off of their survey responses. Typically, the mentor pairs will have the same major or similar hobbies and interests. The mentors and mentees are given training at their first meeting to go over guidelines on how to mentor, how to respect their privacy, and suggestions on how often to meet and topics to discuss. The graduate student organizes several mentoring program events throughout the year for the mentor pairs to attend. The initial cohort started in Fall 2019. During the Spring of 2020, all University students were sent home during March and continued classes online due to the pandemic. Throughout COVID-19 in the Fall of 2020, students still had roommates, but were encouraged to follow social distancing safety precautions when interacting with other floormates. The students also experienced a mix of in-person, blended, and remote classes during COVID-19. Virtual mentoring activities were incorporated during the pandemic. The Fall 2020 events included a guest speaker along with a discussion afterwards, a registration event that walked first year students through how to schedule their spring semester classes, a hot chocolate scavenger hunt event with discussion questions, a female STEM faculty discussion panel, and a succulent pot painting event. All the mentor pairs are encouraged to attend the events with their mentor, but it is not required. Each event has about 40% to 45% participation.
We assessed the impact of the first four semesters of the WISE mentoring program on engagement and satisfaction, as well as retention and whether the GPAs of women within the program were different from those that did not opt to be part of the mentoring. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the success of the program was also assessed. The initial cohort in Fall 2019 had a total of 44 pairs of women consisting of freshmen mentees paired with upper class mentors within the WISE program. Despite the pandemic and incorporating virtual mentoring meetings, 50 pairs of students joined the mentoring program in Fall 2020, an increase of nearly 14%. The GPAs of the women in the mentoring program, and those who were not in the program but were eligible, were not significantly different. Most of the women (82.5%) who were part of the mentoring program rated their partnership as a 3 out of 5 or better. Value: The women highly rated the mentoring experience and reported that it enhanced their engagement with other women in science and engineering. The mentoring program activities and engagement continues to improve each semester, even during the pandemic, and the mentoring practices continue to provide a positive experience for the women in the program.
Furterer, S. L., & Hart, E., & Behnke, L. (2022, February), Successful Practices for a Women in Engineering and Science Mentoring Program for First Year Students Paper presented at 2022 CoNECD (Collaborative Network for Engineering & Computing Diversity) , New Orleans, Louisiana. https://peer.asee.org/39141
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