Social enterprise model for a multi-institutional mentoring network for women in STEM

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Title

CoNECD 2018 - Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity Conference

Publication Date



STEM-UP PA was launched through an NSF-ADVANCE (Increasing the Participation and Advancement of Women in Academic Science and Engineering Careers) 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 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.

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