The E-Mentoring Network for Diversity in Science and Engineering

The E-Mentoring Network for Diversity in Science and Engineering

David Porush (MentorNet, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-876-5.ch002
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MentorNet is dedicated to diversifying the engineering and scientific workforce by providing e-mentoring to students in colleges and universities, with a special focus on underrepresented majors in engineering and science. It was founded in 1997 by Dr. Carol Muller, who led it as its sole President and CEO until 2008.The seeds for MentorNet were sown in 1995 when Muller, then associate dean at Dartmouth’s School of Engineering, initiated a pilot e-mentoring program as part of the campus Women in Science Project, which she had co-founded. Muller’s insight, one that has sustained MentorNet throughout its history, is that engineering and science are the engines of progress and economy in the U.S. and globally, but they are also extraordinarily challenging disciplines, and especially so for underrepresented cohorts who may be the first in their family to aspire to professional careers in engineering and science, or who may still face subtle discrimination because of their gender or ethnicity. Getting as much talent into the science and technology pipelines creates benefits for the global economy, for the institutions who need that talent, and first and foremost, for talented students themselves. Our vision, like our program, is potentially global and paradigm-changing. Our technology is a means to an important end: making and sustaining relationships across barriers of identity, race, class, age gender, ethnicity, and nationality for the benefit of talent development.
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Case Description

As decades of studies and reports have made abundantly clear, the lack of gender, racial, and ethnic diversity in engineering and science has enormous opportunity costs. Diversity contributes to the robustness of scientific discovery, the speed of technology innovation, the strength of the workforce and economy, the cultural sensitivity of our institutions, disciplines and professions, and even, it might be argued, to the quality--or at least interest and positive challenges--of life itself.

In every suggested remedy, mentoring is identified as a key, if not the primary solution to retaining talented individuals, and helping women and minorities to overcome barriers and stay on track to their professional careers. Mentoring also supports the intergenerational transfer of knowledge and practice, enabling continuity and progress, even as individuals cycle through an enterprise.

MentorNet offers an array of intertwined Internet products and services, all focused on forging and sustaining a successful one-on-one e-mail relationship between a mentor and a protégé. The core of MentorNet’s program are a proprietary profiling paradigm, matching algorithms, and especially a set of e-mailed prompts to the mentor-protégé pair, MentorNet’s support and guidance to the pair for how to conduct a fruitful, engaging conversation via e-mail. Together, these form a unique and powerful “relationship engine” that most competitors and other mentoring programs lack.

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