Peer Mentoring Program Encourages Women To Stay Involved In STEM

Sep 8, 2015

Students from SDSMT 's WiSE program kayak during the peer mentoring group's team building activity night.
Credit Chynna Lockett
  The STEM field is prominently made up of males. At South Dakota School of Mines and Technology there is no exception to the gender gap. The school’s WiSE program, short for Women in Science and Engineering, focuses on mentoring incoming female students through their college career.  WiSE hosted its adventure weekend to welcome women to the new semester.  

A group of nearly 75 women gathered at the Outdoor Campus West for team-building activities. Freshmen were paired with upper-class mentors in the same field of study. 

 WiSE is a peer mentoring program that aims to build a support system for women students and help them adjust to college life.  Jena Kreuzer is a mentor in the program. She says she joined WiSE when she was new to the School of Mines.  “I think this program helps women stay in the STEM field because we really look and address the questions and the problems there and we treat each person as an individual. So we make sure we’re not addressing the whole field, but we’re addressing Emmy or we’re addressing Gabriel and we know--okay, they’re struggling with this, this is how we can help them or this is where they’re not feeling comfortable. So one, it gives us the ability to connect personally. And two, if there’s a bigger problem with a class or something we can kind of jumpstart on fixing stuff like that,” said Kreuzer.  She says WiSE also helps students learn to network.  Students heard female speakers from local organizations including the Buffalo Gals, ASPIRE and the Black Hills Corporation.  Lori Rainwater is the Director of Customer Service Operations at Black Hills Corporation. She says it’s important to keep women in STEM careers.   “I think the more numbers we get there, the more that we’re just shattering any unconscious biases that exist with regards to women’s ability to do these things and it just paves the way for others. The bottom line is too thought that there’s this huge retirement cliff of people retiring and the workforce is made up of more than 50 percent women and we need them. We need that talent. We want the best regardless of gender,” Rainwater says.  A new WiSE Center for students will open in Rapid City in October.