Connecting to STEM

By AACC 21st Century Center Staff

A  Massachusetts college matches STEM students with industry partners for learning beyond the classroom.

Since 2014, MassBay Community College’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Mentor Program has been connecting STEM students and regional employers for one-on-one mentoring relationships. The program provides substantive, skills-based programs and networking opportunities that benefit both mentors and mentees.

The STEM Mentor Program includes meetings between mentors and mentees, as well as group activities, social events and workshops. Some of the suggested activities include job shadowing, reviewing resumes and preparing for interviews, and going over course selections and post-college options.

“Having someone to talk to about what steps to take next in my career and what may be the best way to achieve my goals has been essential,” MassBay marine biotechnology student Gabriela Faria said in a press release. “Through my mentor I have had the opportunity to observe her work at Genzyme, one-on-one guidance to understand career paths in the biotechnology field and learn new techniques to practice in greater detail what I have learned in my classes at MassBay. I am so thankful for meeting my mentor and for the support she has provided me.”

The program launched with 41 students and one company partner: Sanofi Genzyme, a biotechnology company based in Cambridge, Mass. Sanofi Genzyme employees served as mentors. Three years later, by the end of spring 2017, the program had 67 mentors and 80 student mentees.

“The students in our mentor program have earned a higher average GPA and college retention rate than STEM students as a whole at MassBay for the last two years,” said Valerie Kapilow, MassBay’s director of the STEM Mentor Program.

MassBay’s list of company partners has grown to include MathWorks, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, Winchester Analytical Engineering Center and other regional STEM employers.

Both students and mentors come from diverse backgrounds. More than 30 percent of mentees are low-income, people of color, first in their family to attend college and/or women.

“It has been great to watch the STEM Mentor Program grow since we first started it,” said Rebecca Sendak, U.S. head of biopharmaceutics development at Sanofi. “Employees within Sanofi and Sanofi Genzyme have really enjoyed engaging with the students and helping to enrich the next generation of scientists preparing for careers in STEM fields.  We are very much looking forward to another year of mentoring, and all the additional activities that accompany the program!”

Sanofi Genzyme also is a STEM Mentor Program funder. The company recently contributed $40,000 for the 2017-18 academic year. It’s the third consecutive year they’ve financially supported the program. MassBay also received a MathWorks Community Grant and a STEM Starter Academy grant from the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education.

AACC 21st Century Center Staff

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.