CU-Boulder Participates In Electronic Mentoring Program

September 21, 1999

The University of Colorado at Boulder will participate this fall in MentorNet, an innovative electronic mentoring service for women pursuing careers in engineering and the sciences.

The nonprofit program, founded in spring 1998, is believed to be the first of its kind offered nationwide. During this past school year, MentorNet linked 539 female engineering and science majors from 26 U.S. universities with volunteer mentors working in private industry. The number of students served is expected to grow to several thousand over the next few years.

MentorNet uses cyberspace to link students and mentors, who communicate by e-mail. Other support services are offered through the program’s Web site.

"There is compelling evidence that mentoring can make a big difference in a student’s success in college as well as after graduation," said Carol Muller, MentorNet founder and executive director. "Because MentorNet uses e-mail and other electronic technologies, it can link many more students and mentors than traditional mentoring programs relying on face-to-face meetings."

MentorNet helps level the playing field between women and men planning for careers in engineering and other sciences. Although women account for 46 percent of the U.S. work force, they are seriously underrepresented in many scientific areas, particularly engineering.

"Women account for less than 10 percent of the nation’s engineers," Muller noted. "MentorNet links students with professionals who can help them overcome gender-related obstacles women face while in college and later in the work force."

CU-Boulder's Women in Engineering Program was founded in 1988 to encourage women to pursue studies and careers in engineering. About 20 percent of the students in CU-Boulder's College of Engineering and Applied Science are women, a number that has held steady for the past several years.

"One proven way to encourage women to become successful engineers is through mentoring. We believe our collaboration with MentorNet will allow us to increase the effectiveness of our existing electronic mentoring program," said Robyn Sandekian, associate director of the Women in Engineering Program at CU-Boulder.

Last year the WIEP matched 18 female engineering students with CU alumnae mentors. As a participating university in MentorNet, Sandekian hopes to substantially increase the number of engineering students who have regular contact with an industry mentor.

MentorNet, a partnership effort involving universities, corporations and professional societies, is headquartered at San José State University. AT&T, Intel, IBM, Ford Motor Co. and the U.S. Department of Education provide major project funding.

Potential mentors should visit MentorNet’s Web site at www.mentornet.net.

(Editors: MentorNet has been featured or cited in publications including The Chronicle of Higher Education, Science, Nature, The Wall Street Journal, CNN Digital Jam and Wired News.)

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