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STEM Mentors Seek Wider Path of Inclusion

Posted on May 26, 2016
PAESMEM and AAAS alumni worked in small groups to develop an action plan for expanding STEM talent. (Photo credit: Michael Colella)
PAESMEM and AAAS alumni worked in small groups to develop an action plan for expanding STEM talent. (Photo credit: Michael Colella)

Recognition, commitment and camaraderie marked the three-day meeting of alumni of the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Lifetime Mentor Awards in Washington.

The "New Directions for Inclusive STEM Education & Career Mentoring" Alumni Meeting brought together nearly 50 leading STEM mentors on April 20-22 to seek ways to expand their work. The working meeting also commemorated the 20th anniversary of the inaugural PAESMEM honors and the 25th anniversary of the AAAS Lifetime Mentor Awards. Activities included presentations, plenary session panels and breakout work groups to develop recommendations for expanding science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) talent and mentoring. A lively town hall style webcast highlighted the meeting. It featured recognition of inaugural PAESMEM and AAAS Lifetime Mentor Award recipients as well as panel discussions about the state of STEM mentoring and strategies for advancing it.

Moderated by Dr. Carol Muller, executive director of Stanford WISE Ventures and representative for PAESMEM organizational 2001 awardee MentorNet, the first panel provided an overview of STEM mentoring and its critical role. National Science Foundation (NSF) Assistant Director, Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR) Dr. Joan Ferrini-Mundy was among the panelists who discussed NSF Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (INCLUDES), a comprehensive initiative for broadening participation in STEM talent in the United States. 

“This fiscal year, INCLUDES has a funding stream of more than $12 million to answer the call for a comprehensive initiative to enhance our leadership in science and engineering by seeking and developing STEM talent from all sectors and groups in our society,” said Ferrini-Mundy. She shared the panel with Dr. Rush Holt, chief executive officer of AAAS and Dr. Christine Pfund, director of the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN).

After a roll call tribute to ten individual, six organizational inaugural PAESMEM recipients and two AAAS Lifetime awardees, several inaugural PAESMEM alumni discussed STEM best practices. Among them was Toney Begay, executive director of New Mexico Mathematics, Engineering and Science Achievement (NM MESA), who spoke to the challenges of STEM education in a tribal setting. Begay said one barrier is the lack of scientific vocabulary in the Navajo language, making it somewhat harder to explain STEM concepts to his Native American students.

Additional “best practices” panelists and 1996 inaugural alumni included Diola Bagayoko, director of Timbuktu Academy and project director for the Louis Stokes Louisiana Alliance for Minority Participation at Southern University and Dr. Carlos Gutierrez, professor of chemistry at California State University.

Another panel of PAESMEM alumni discussed strategies for building STEM workforce skills. Interacting with attendees in the audience about the topic were Dr. Shara Fisler executive director of Ocean Discovery Institute (PAESMEM Organizational 2010), Dr. Karen Panetta (PAESMEM 2010), associate dean of engineering and professor of electrical computer engineering at Tufts University and founder of Nerd Girls, and Dr. William "Jim" Lewis, professor of mathematics in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Nebraska (PAESMEM Organizational 1998). (Lewis currently serves as Deputy Assistant Director for the Directorate for Education and Human Resources.)

The final webcast panel discussion focused on STEM mentoring resources. Panelists included Dr. Susan Metz, former president and co-founder of Women in Engineering ProActive Network (WEPAN), Stevens Institute of Technology (PAESMEM Organizational 1998), Dr. Christine Grant, (PAESMEM 2003, AAAS 2015), professor of engineering and associate dean of faculty development and special initiatives at North Carolina State University and Dr. Maria Elena-Zavala (PAESMEM 2000), biology professor at California State University, Northridge. During the discussion, Grant emphasized that mentoring must also have rewards from academic leaders in order to encourage faculty to mentor diverse students studying STEM disciplines.

On the final day, attendees convened with NSF and AAAS officers to review the working groups’ recommendations for inclusive STEM education and career mentoring. Attendees exchanged ideas with Dr. Celeste Rohlfing, AAAS chief operating officer, and Dr. Sylvia James, NSF division director, Human Resource Development, Directorate for Education and Human Resources, about ways to address their recommendations for STEM mentorship at all levels—K-12, undergraduate, post-doctoral and early career.

Recommendations from the groups included collaborating with other STEM-related professional societies to seek mentoring partnerships in various STEM fields. A full report of the meeting, including STEM mentoring resources, will be released later this year.



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