May 1999 Press Release
May 24, 1999
CONTACT: Carol Muller, (408) 924-4070, email@example.com
1999 GRADUATES GET HELP FROM CYBERSPACE MENTORS
CALIF. - When Carla L. Barrett receives her doctoral degree in nuclear
engineering this summer, she'll thank plenty of people, including a woman
she's never met.
Yet Barrett, 27,
and Sandy Feldman, an electrical engineer with General Electric in Schenectady,
N.Y., have shared a lot - from Barrett's concerns about juggling
marriage and a career to negotiating a salary
"I've been able to
ask Sandy questions that I haven't been able to ask anyone else,"
admitted Barrett, a married graduate student at University of Michigan, Ann
Arbor. At one point, she was considering seven job
Barrett and Feldman are
participants in an innovative program called MentorNet.
The year-old program may be the first
of its kind offered nationwide. It uses the Internet and electronic mail to
connect female students pursuing degrees in engineering or other sciences with
volunteer mentors in those fields.
"Women still face gender-specific obstacles while studying for careers in
engineering and science," noted Carol Muller, MentorNet founder and
director. "There is strong evidence that mentoring can help women overcome
The need for a
program like MentorNet has never been greater, Muller commented.
"The nation faces a critical
shortage of qualified workers in many engineering and science fields where women
are underrepresented. Less than 10 percent of all U.S. engineers are
women," she said. "MentorNet's goal is to increase
women's presence while addressing the shortage."
Because MentorNet takes advantage of
e-mail and other emerging technologies, it can reach many more students than
more traditional mentoring programs, Muller added. (more)
The program linked 539 students from 26
U.S. universities with mentors employed in private industry and government
during the 1998-99 school year. Muller expects the number of students served to
grow to several thousand over the next few years.
Among this year's participants:
Libby Handelsman and Ebony Fitchett. They will graduate this spring with
bachelor's degrees in engineering from the University of California at
Berkeley and Princeton University, Princeton, N.J., respectively. Handelsman,
21, has accepted a job at IBM in Fishkill, N.Y., where her mentor works.
Fitchett, 22, will work as a nuclear engineer with Pennsylvania Power and Light.
"When you attend a large
university like I do, it's nice to have someone who has real-world
experience and is willing to give you personal attention," Handelsman said
Fitchett, who was in
contact with her mentor two to three times a week during the fall semester,
hopes to remain in touch following graduation.
Other participants appear equally
enthused about MentorNet.
In a survey
conducted after the program's pilot semester in Spring 1998, 87 percent of
the students said they would recommend the experience to others. Among mentors,
92 percent indicated they would probably continue to participate in MentorNet.
The results encourage Muller.
"MentorNet is proving to be a
convenient and effective way for mentors and students, who otherwise would not
have time for face-to-face meetings, to interact," she said. "Only
15-20 minutes a week on e-mail can make a big difference."
Persons interested in becoming mentors
can get more information by visiting MentorNet's web site, www.mentornet.net.
MentorNet is offered through the Women
in Engineering Programs & Advocates Network and headquartered at San
José State University. AT&T, Intel, IBM, and the U.S. Department of Education
Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education all provide major project