The University of Washington Center for Women in Science & Engineering has been selected to receive a Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring.
“Your extraordinary accomplishments in mentoring students from under-represented groups exemplify the talent and commitment this program aims to recognize,” said Neal Lane, assistant to the President for science and technology policy, in a letter announcing the award to Suzanne Brainard, director of the UW center. “As we approach the 21st Century, it is essential that all American students are prepared to meet the scientific and technological challenges of the future.”
The White House awards recognize individuals and institutions for outstanding mentoring efforts designed to increase participation of groups who are underrepresented in science, math and engineering. The awards, to be presented Thursday at a White House ceremony, include a $10,000 mentoring grant as well as a commemorative presidential certificate.
“This is truly an honor to be recognized for a decade of work in mentoring in science, engineering and mathematics,” said Brainard. “As the gap widens between industry’s demand for a diverse, well-trained work force and the available labor supply, mentoring is becoming an increasingly important bridge to success for women pursuing science and engineering careers. My staff and I are so pleased with the acknowledgement of our efforts to address this critical challenge.”
Over the past decade, the UW Center for Women in Science & Engineering has helped increase enrollment of women in science and engineering fields from 15 percent to 23 percent at the undergraduate level and from 6 percent to 22 percent at the graduate level. In addition, retention of female undergraduate science and engineering students at the UW has grown from 50 percent in 1990 to 74 percent in 1997.
Brainard credits long-standing peer and professional mentoring efforts for much of the center’s success. In fact, she says, the retention rate for UW students who receive professional mentoring is 97 percent compared to the average national retention rate of 55 percent for women in science and engineering programs.
Drawing on the successes of the UW mentoring efforts, Brainard and her staff developed the first comprehensive curriculum for science and engineering mentoring training. Funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education, the curriculum is being offered at minimal charge to public schools, universities, businesses and other organizations nationwide to promote effective mentoring programs.
“The Center for Women in Science & Engineering is at the forefront of not only mentoring others but also developing outstanding tools to ensure that proper mentoring is provided to future generations of young women and men entering science and engineering fields,” says UW Dean of Engineering Denice D. Denton, the first woman engineering dean at a major research university in the United States. “I know from my own experience how crucial that strong mentoring from colleagues is to success and the ability to achieve one’s professional goals. The Center for Women in Science & Engineering is deeply deserving of this recognition for the outstanding work it has done in mentoring women in engineering over the last decade.”