This week, UR joined the ranks of Pomona College, Princeton University and Yale University and began its participation in the WitsOn! (Women in Technology Sharing Online) program for women interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The six-week pilot program — sponsored by software company Piazza and Harvey Mudd College and open to colleges and universities nationwide — connects students with women mentors currently working in STEM fields. As of Oct. 1, any UR student could enroll and find a guide that can offer assistance and answer questions.

Though the percentage of women enrolled in engineering programs at UR is much higher than the national average — 30 percent compared to 18 percent — the University hopes to assist what it considers an underrepresented demographic of aspiring female engineers by providing them with support and access to role models.

Lisa Norwood, assistant dean at the Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, described WitsOn! as a way to “give students a leg up.”

Norwood explained she understands that women engineers face additional struggles that their male counterparts do not. While she had the approval of her father, a computer programmer, and several friends who were also pursuing degrees in geomechanics, Norwood knows not all students are as fortunate. She hopes that the program will lend similar support to women in these discplines so they “can follow their passions and talk across boundaries.”

UR students have responded well to WitsOn!, according to Norwood. In fact, the University originally chose to enroll after an undergraduate student brought it to Norwood’s attention.

UR also aims to help, advise and mentor all students along their career path, not just those interested in STEM.

“Mentors are a critical part of professional development and such efforts can further our efforts to increase the number of women who pursue degrees in engineering,” Dean of the Hajim School of Engineering Robert Clark said.

Graziano is a member of the class of 2016.

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