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U Hawaii Mentoring Program Aims to Boost Women in STEM Fields

closeup of woman working on math problem

A modest program at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa is doing its part to boost the numbers of women who study for and enter STEM fields. For the last three years, the institution's Department of Mathematics has run a mentoring program for a small band of female middle school and high school students. Their mentors and instructors are female students themselves who are studying related subjects at the university.

Each week, the women meet on campus for sessions on computer coding and advanced math and to participate in projects, such as a NASA experiment to send a stratospheric balloon into the atmosphere.

"A lot of these fields, especially in STEM, it's still male dominated, and it can be intimidating," said mentor Olivia Murray, a computer science major, in a statement. "And just for them to see another girl who was successful in the field, I think that would be really encouraging for them."

Added mentor and math Ph.D. candidate Isabella Tobin, "I really think it is ... important that kids, especially girls, have an opportunity to get exposed to different kinds of math and more math, especially if they are really curious like these girls are."

Although the younger students are taking on extra work outside of their own class assignments, those who have participated said they appreciate the boost. "These mentors have really helped me in my real life and my school life," said Kalani High School student Aedan Azeka. "I didn't really even think there was a whole world beyond what I was learning in school."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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