The Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) 2015 Computational Science and Engineering (CSE15) conference broke attendance, fund raising, and other records. A pilot mentoring and Broader Engagement (BE) program organized by Sustainable Horizons Institute and a volunteer committee added to the list of achievements. The goals of the program were to not only connect protégés with mentors during the conference, but also to influence their careers long after the conference. Through funding provided by the National Science Foundation, sponsor and individual donors, 40 students, faculty, and professionals from 32 institutions and 21 states and Saudi Arabia received travel grants and participated in the program.
The mentorship program is extremely important. It not only helped me attend interesting talks, but also it helped me build strong networking connections…The daily lunch meetings were important to make strong connections with other students and mentors in the program…The broad topics in the conference helped to uncover methods and problems that can be very important in my research.
The most valuable experience I got was the one of having the opportunity to express myself through drawing. Sometimes it is difficult for me to tell other people about the circumstances in which my family and I have lived. With this drawing activity, I was able to describe my story to the people at my table.
The vision of this project was to establish a BE program at CSE15 and to bring a cohort of students and early career faculty and professionals either from under-represented groups or people in support of diversity to the conference so they can fully engage in the community. The BE activities were designed based on a model aimed at building and supporting a community of leaders in the CSE and HPC community.
I absolutely applaud and admire the BE organizing committee and team of staff and helpers… for their hard work, their great spirits, and amazing reaching-out to faculty and students…This BE diversity program opportunity at this conference has been so much more targeted and effective than most other conference programs I have attended in my 2 years as postdoctoral researcher and 13 years as faculty member…. It is very much appreciated!
A formal evaluation of the program found that program had a very positive impact. One-hundred percent of respondents indicated they would recommend the program to others and 95% said they would attend another BE program. Participant confidence increased in all areas measured after the conference and 96% of mentors and protégés said their expectations were met and 80% gained valuable and/or unexpected experiences.
Initial indications suggest a potential expanding impact. A program participant, a Vice President of the SIAM Student Chapter, has received approval to start a chapter of the Association of Women in Mathematics on her campus. She plans to start a mentoring program modeled after the BE program. An undergraduate at Bowie State University, was so excited about his experience that he is starting a SIAM student chapter on his campus.
Using at times some unconventional techniques like drawing and crafts, the BE and mentoring pilot program appears to have had a positive impact on participants and their career trajectories. Post conference activities continue to facilitate mentoring and while lasting impacts are still unknown, initial indications are promising.