By Joan Runnheim Olson
The following interview is with Sapna Protheroe, College Development Manager at MentorNet, an online mentoring program (http://www.mentornet.net/).
Why is the retention rate low for women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) classes/programs? Many factors contribute to low retention rates including: Low self-esteem; Lack of viable mentors; Discouragement from pursuing chosen career; Lack of support.
How can mentoring help increase retention? Mentoring has many benefits including: Access to a support system. Help with career planning. Support and guidance in overcoming hurdles. Online mentoring is immediate & accessible.
What is MentorNet? MentorNet is an online mentoring program for students in all majors; however the focus is on women in STEM.
What are the benefits of online mentoring over face-to-face? Since the mentoring is done online, it’s ideal for the busy student, aka protégé, and for the mentor. Neither has to be physically available to make the relationship work. A mentor can provide support from across the globe.
How long does the mentor/protégé relationship typically last? They last eight months which is the length of a school year.
How does MentorNet facilitate the relationship? We facilitate the relationship by sending email prompts with discussion topics on diversity, time management, discrimination, stereotypes, and goals for the future, etc.
Is there a cost for MentorNet? MentorNet charges colleges and universities a small fee of $5,000 per year for the service. There is no charge to the student at the participating campuses.
How do you measure success? We track the number of students that sign up for the program. We also compile survey results after each match is completed, asking questions to determine how well it’s helped the students.
What is the time commitment each week? The protégé and mentor each spend about an average of 15 minutes per week on the mentoring relationship.
Who qualifies to be a mentor? Anyone with a few years of work experience can become a mentor.