sealPurdue News

November 1999

Program connects Purdue women with mentors

Sources: Jane Daniels, (765) 494-3889;
Barbara Clark, (765) 494-1771;

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.– An Internet-based mentoring program for women pursuing careers in engineering and the sciences is making it easier for female students to connect with mentors and learn about opportunities in industry.

Purdue University is participating in the nonprofit program, called MentorNet, a partnership involving universities, corporations and professional societies. MentorNet, with headquarters at San Jose State University, uses cyberspace to link students and mentors, who communicate by e-mail.

The program, founded in 1998, is believed to be the first of its kind offered nationwide.

"It's a nice supplement to the many programs already under way for women in engineering and science Purdue," said Jane Daniels, director of the Purdue Women in Engineering Program. Programs now in place offer activities such as career counseling at the junior high and high school levels, mentoring programs and peer groups for students once they enroll at Purdue, and networking opportunities with alumnae and industry supporters.

Though Purdue currently provides mentoring opportunities for the approximately 1,500 graduate and undergraduate women students in engineering and the 1,400 enrolled in Purdue's School of Science, Daniels said the program is ideal for students who don't have time to participate in the formal programs, which often rely on face-to-face contact.

"Because the program relies on the use of e-mail and other electronic technologies, students may find it an easy way to expand their circle of contacts," Daniels said.

Barbara Clark, director of the Women in Science Program, said, "The program was available last year on a pilot basis, but we anticipate much more interest this year."

MentorNet's founder, Carol Muller, said that although women account for 46 percent of the U.S. work force, they are underrepresented in many scientific areas, particularly engineering. Part of the problem may be traced back to the nation's universities, where women may begin to feel isolated while studying in fields still heavily dominated by men.

She said MentorNet can break through that isolation by connecting female students with mentors who understand the challenges. "Ideally, the mentors serve as role models, provide realistic views of the training and preparation necessary to be successful, and advise students about overcoming obstacles," she said.

Topics covered between mentor and student have included how college choices affect professional opportunities, how professional and personal demands can be balanced, and whether women face more pressures than their male counterparts in the workplace. Students also may get advice on subjects such as how not to get overwhelmed with their workload or the pros and cons of a graduate degree in the job market, Muller said.

To volunteer as a mentor, participants must be a male or female professional with an educational or professional background in engineering, science, technology or math who works in private industry or at a government agency or national laboratory.

More information for potential mentors and students is available at the program's Web site.

Writer: Susan Gaidos, (765) 494-2081;

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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