Strand: Increasing access and equity in CTE and STEM
Time: Thursday, April 19, 2018 from 8:15 – 9:30 am
At the Douglass Project for Women in STEM at Rutgers University, we have created and implemented replicable, proven strategies to improve the engagement, retention and completion rates for undergraduate women in STEM. These strategies, centered on “Living Learning Communities”, can be implemented in secondary and post-secondary education environments, and have demonstrated most success in the residential, post–secondary educational environment, specifically for undergraduate engineering majors.
Sally Nadler, SPHR
Assistant Dean – Douglass Project for Women in Math, Science and Engineering (Interim)
Douglass Residential College, Rutgers University
Biography: Sally is a well-respected energy and workforce development professional within NJ. Prior to her retirement from PSEG, she had over 30 years’ experience in a diverse range positions. As the Manager of Workforce Development, Sally was responsible for overseeing all talent acquisition pipeline initiatives for PSEG including the college relations and diversity outreach functions. These included the company’s recruitment initiatives for women, people of color, veterans and individuals with disabilities. Sally then worked with NJIT and the NJ Advanced Manufacturing Talent Network register the MechaFORCE™ – Registered Internship Manufacturing Program (M-RIM).Sally serves on the NJ State Employment and Training Commission, and on the NJ Council on Gender Parity in Labor and Education, which she is now chair. She holds an AAS degree in Management from Middlesex County College, a BS in Management from Rutgers Business School, and a Master of Arts in Leadership from Bellevue University.
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The Douglass Project for Rutgers Women in Math, Science, & Engineering offers innovative programing for all aspiring female scientists, mathematicians, and engineers at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ. Established in 1986, the Douglass Project is an award-winning, visionary program dedicated to supporting women interested in the STEM majors by:
1. Enhancing educational experiences and providing academic development and leadership opportunities.
2. Encouraging students to recognize and have confidence in their abilities and attain their educational goals.
3. Providing community and support systems that foster competence and achievement in STEM.
Housed at Douglass Residential College, we help students succeed in their academic endeavors through individual advising, structured research programs, career development workshops, leadership training, alumni and industry connections and student involvement opportunities.
One of the cornerstone programs of the Douglass Project is The Reilly Douglass Engineering Living-Learning Community (“Reilly DELLC”) which was implemented in fall, 2012 as a strategy to increase the retention and persistence of the women engineers enrolled in Douglass Residential College and the School of Engineering at Rutgers University. For the last six years, the community has accomplished this by utilizing research-based initiatives for expanding students’ knowledge in academic and professional settings. The Reilly DELLC has also offered intentional programming focused on community building that provides unmatched opportunities for educating a student holistically, academically and professionally. In particular, vicarious learning opportunities are more likely to lead to increased self-efficacy for women, which is defined as the strength of a person’s belief in her ability to complete tasks and reach goals. Thus, the Reilly DELLC has offered many opportunities for hands-on and proactive learning in both academic and professional contexts. The Reilly DELLC is a joint partnership of Rutgers’ Douglass Residential College and the School of Engineering. The department of Douglass Residential College that oversees daily operation of the Reilly DELLC is the Douglass Project for Rutgers Women in Math, Science and Engineering (“the Douglass Project”), with staff member Mrs. Nicole Wodzinski serving as Director of the Reilly DELLC.
Students who participate in living-learning communities (“LLCs”) report higher levels of satisfaction with their college experience compared to their peers who do not participate in such programs. The Reilly DELLC’s multilayered mentoring model provides participants with the support and verbal persuasion of engineering faculty, staff, administrators, and students. These efforts have resulted in a high retention rate, high academic achievement, and excellence in research. The National Study of Living Learning Programs reviews student outcomes with a longitudinal study and finds that LLCs can facilitate a smoother transition for first-generation college students, provide lasting positive effects on students’ academic self-confidence and civic engagement, and provide positive second-hand effects for non-LLC students living in the same residence hall. Therefore, the LLC not only aims to serve the first-year members of the program, but also offers opportunities for women in the program for all four years and includes non-LLC students to benefit from programming and experiences as well.
Multi-layered Mentoring – Reilly DELLC aims to increase female role models in engineering through our mutli-layered mentoring programs. Participants in the Reilly DELLC receive mentoring from a variety of sources. The community’s Faculty Mentor, Dr. Helen Buettner, is a Professor of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering and a Professor of Biomedical Engineering. In addition to mentoring participants, she has developed and enhanced the Introduction to Engineering course, which all of the participants take. The first-year cohorts are also mentored by a second-year engineering student in residence, called a Peer Academic Leader (PAL). The PAL assists first-year students with transitioning to the college environment and strengthening relationships within the community. Our PAL for the 2016-2017 academic year was Cassidy Schneider, who is majoring in Bioenvironmental Engineering. Cassidy is a Reilly DELLC third year participant and an undergraduate researcher in the department of Bioenvironmental Engineering. The PAL for the 2017-2018 academic year is Cora Lopresti, a Reilly DELLC sophomore majoring in Mechanical Engineering. She has been working with her PAL mentor to prepare for the new class moving in this fall.
First-year students in the Reilly DELLC are also mentored by two graduate students enrolled in Rutgers’ School of Engineering. The graduate mentors provide overall support to our first-year students through individual and group mentoring. They also plan programs designed to keep the community engaged. The graduate students also work with the students through the Engineering Explorations course with Dr. Buettner. The Reilly DELLC’s two graduate mentors for the 2016-2017 academic year were Vyshnavi Karra and Catrice Carter. Vyshnavi is a Reilly DELLC alumna and currently working toward her Master’s degree in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering. Catrice is a Rutgers School of Engineering alumna and has been working in STEM outreach for several years. She is currently working on her PhD in Materials Science and Engineering. The 2017-2018 Graduate Mentor Program will welcome back Catrice Carter and new Reilly DELLC alumna Sara Wengrowski. Sara has been an active member of the Reilly DELLC community and will continue to mentor current students during her graduate work at the Rutgers School of Engineering.
The sophomores, juniors, and seniors that are part of the Reilly DELLC also engage in a strong mentoring program. For the 2016-2017 academic year, sixty-four upper-year mentors were engaged in mentoring thirty-two first-year students in engineering. The mentors participate in at least two trainings each semester and meet with their mentees at least twice a semester. Based on the feedback provided from the members of the Reilly DELLC, the peer mentoring has helped to foster peer engagement and provided guidance in career preparation, choosing majors, finding research opportunities, and utilizing professional development opportunities.
Introduction to Engineering Course – In addition to mentoring, the participants receive direct instruction in a 3-credit course that creates an environment to explore engineering design projects in small teams. This year, the class created interactive exhibits to encourage the interest of middle school girls in engineering fields. In each course period, students interacted with their Faculty Director, Dr. Helen Buettner, and peer mentors from the Reilly DELLC. While this course has many important academic components, it also provides students with a low-stakes experience to explore different engineering topics and majors. This course, populated by female representatives from different engineering fields, allows women the opportunity to visualize themselves in each of those roles. The literature shows that faculty engagement can enhance student experience and outcomes, and the Reilly DELLC takes advantage of commonality in the interests of students and faculty to make connections starting in this course and perpetuating this practice outside the classroom. The class works in small groups to create a hands-on project culminating in a presentation at the end of the semester. The goal of the project is for the groups to represent a field of study within engineering. The presentation also encompasses the challenge of creating a mini-lesson to middle school students with a hands-on activity. Groups must create a budget; anticipate questions, and brainstorm why this activity might encourage girls to pursue engineering courses. This course has been so successful that the School of Engineering is looking to implement a similar syllabus for their entire first-year introductory engineering course.
Hands on Activity – Once the research based concepts and success strategies used by the Douglass Project in its living learning communities are shared, Ms. Nadler will lead and facilitate workshop participants through a lively and engaging strategy implementation working session to be able to take away the key success factors and implement them within their campuses and schools. This action planning, goal-setting activity will have three main objectives:
1. Set retention targets for women in STEM specific to your individual institutions
2. Create a recruitment strategy and implementation plan
3. Identify and engage potential education and industry partners for outcomes and placement
This way each person that attends the workshop will not only learn about these success strategies, but will have a specific action plan that they can implement once they return from the conference.
In the wrap up, we will also share about how we are taking these proven strategies and expanding them at Rutgers to include both the addition of Computer Science and Biology majors.