To get more participation from undergraduate women, the Computer Science Women’s Group (CS Women) has established a Mentoring Program. In this program, the group paired each undergraduate woman who has declared computer science as a major with a female CS graduate student.
CS Women is a forum for women in the Department to discuss academic and social issues. The group organizes visits from prominent women researchers from academia and industry to share their experiences and their thoughts on the role of women in research. They meet over lunches and other social events to stay connected. While CS Women’s events are open to all women in the Department, primarily graduate students attend. With the Mentoring program in place, the group hopes to change that. “We would really like to get to know the undergraduate women in the department, and we think we might be able to help in case they have questions about the program or graduate school in general,” says Huong Phan, one of the co-chairs of the CS Women’s group this semester.
“The graduate women reached a consensus that a mentoring program would have benefited them when they were undergraduates themselves,” says Bobby Simidchieva, the other co-chair of the group. “We wanted a support system in place for the undergraduates who are not likely to see other female students in their computer science classes. We want to communicate to them that there are other women in computer science—our graduate program is almost 20% females.”
Volunteer mentors began communications with their mentees during informal gatherings over coffee and email correspondence. The group is planning an end of semester event where all the mentors and mentees will gather to mingle.
“It is a good way to meet more people in the department,” comments one undergraduate in the new program. “Having a mentor allows us to have another person to turn to when we have any questions about computer science.”
Mentor Elif Aktolga adds that the Mentoring Program is a good idea for final year students who are about to get into the application process and who would have specific questions about grad school and careers, and also for new students who would benefit from help at the beginning of their college careers.
For more information about the Mentoring Program or CS Women, please visit www.cs.umass.edu/~women/.