CEWiT Celebrates Success of Student-Alumnae Mentorship Program

Thursday, March 29, 2018

BLOOMINGTON, IN. IU’s Center for Excellence for Women in Technology celebrated the launch of over 100 mentoring relationships this term, a successful pilot for its new online-augmented mentorship initiative. The program, which is part of CEWiT’s ongoing efforts to encourage, empower, and advance women in technology, gave 150 female students access to alumnae mentors working in STEM fields. In total, mentors and mentees collectively logged over 680 conversations throughout the year, spending an estimated 806 hours talking with each other in person and via videochat, as well as text message and email. 

The alumnae mentorship program, powered by the Mentor Collective online platform, matches students with alumnae mentors trained to offer guidance and support in a variety of STEM- and college-related topics. Through its discussion guides and goal-setting activities centered around topics like discrimination in the workplace, navigating privilege, and building a growth mindset, CEWiT’s mentorship program aims to spark intergenerational relationships between women in technology–creating an even stronger network between IU alumnae entering an increasingly competitive industry.

In applying to become mentors, many of the 130 alumnae volunteers spoke of their own challenges in the tech workplace, and the need to build supportive networks that validate the many facets of a woman’s identity.

“Sometimes it has been tough as a woman in a technical field and supporting other women is important.  Plus there is the possibility of a career after time at home with children and young women need to be assured of that choice” wrote Alumna Suzanne Wortman.

Other alumnae emphasized the importance of helping young women feel empowered to shape their own lives. “I am an African American Female and being in a predominately white space where a lot of people in my classes did not look like me, I struggled to find my place at IU,” wrote Melanie White, BSPA ’12. “Not always, but most of the time you are in charge of your own happiness and cannot let anyone get in the way of that.”

Melanie and her mentee Erin Powell ’18 have completed over 15 conversations to date, and like many pairs, their conversations often touch on future career plans, and on how to make those plans a reality.

“I currently have an interview this upcoming week and I plan to continue researching other job opportunities in the coming weeks. I didn't learn much about job hunting when I started school, so this program is very helpful for me,” Erin reflected recently when asked about the goals she set with Melanie.

In addition to creating a deepened sense of community within IU, the program builds upon a national trend to facilitate durable, meaningful interpersonal connections in a student’s college journey. A recent Gallup-Purdue Index report cited relationships as having the largest effect on students’ perception of the value of their education.

“CEWiT was founded to be the launchpad to connect females, to technology, and success, and we are proud that IU alumnae are setting such a great example,” said Maureen Biggers, Director of CEWiT. “I wouldn’t be surprised if many of this year’s mentees become mentors in the future, and I’m excited for the degree to which this cycle will enrich our students’ experience at IU and beyond.”