Hundreds of prominent women working in science, technology, engineering and math will become online mentors for college students next month, part of a six-week program to encourage young women to pursue careers in STEM fields.
“I think of this as a MOOC — a massive open online course — and a big mentor-fest,” said Maria Klawe, the president of Harvey Mudd College and a sponsor of the project. “Getting more women into STEM is my passion in life, and every institution that’s set up mentorship programs for young women has been successful at increasing their numbers, so I think this can make a real difference.”
哈维姆德学院(Harvey Mudd College)院长玛丽亚·克拉韦(Maria Klawe)是这个项目的发起人，她表示，“我把这个项目看作大规模网络开放课程(MOOC)和盛大的导师聚会。让更多女生进入理工科领域，是我毕生热衷的事业，每所为女生设立导师制度的大学都成功地增加了女生的人数，因此我认为这个项目可以发挥真正的作用。”
The program has no curriculum, no exam, no grades and no credit — just a goal of connecting young students with accomplished women working in STEM fields. Prominent universities — including the California Institute of Technology, Cornell, the Georgia Institute of Technology, Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton, Stanford and the University of California, Berkeley — have been quick to sign on, contributing mentors and publicizing the program to students.
这个项目没有课程、没有考试、没有成绩和学分——旨在让大学生和就职于理工科领域的卓越女性建立联系。多所知名大学——包括加州理工学院(California Institute of Technology)、康奈尔大学(Cornell)、佐治亚理工学院(Georgia Institute of Technology)、哈佛大学(Harvard University)、麻省理工学院(Massachusetts Institute of Technology)、普林斯顿大学(Princeton University)、斯坦福大学(Stanford University)和加州大学伯克利分校(University of California, Berkeley)——都立即对此表示支持，提供导师的人选，向学生宣传这个项目。
“I thought this was a great idea as soon as I heard about it,” said Dennis Berkey, the president of Worcester Polytechnic Institute. “Young women in STEM, more than young men, have a lot of questions about what kind of career they’ll have, whether the rewards are based on performance or the old boys’ network, whether it’ll let them make a positive impact on the world, and how it will relate to their aspirations for family.”
伍斯特理工学院(Worcester Polytechnic Institute)院长丹尼斯·伯基(Dennis Berkey)说，“我听到这个项目后，认为是个不错的想法。在理工科专业学习的女生比男生有更多的问题要问，关于她们将拥有什么样的职业发展，薪酬是根据工作表现还是人际关系而定，她们是否能给这个世界带来积极的影响，如何处理她们对家庭的期望。”
While women now earn more college degrees than men over all, they lag in STEM fields — particularly computer science and engineering, where they earn less than 20 percent of all undergraduate degrees.
To help raise those numbers, Dr. Klawe has lined up six prominent women as lead mentors, including Mae C. Jemison, the first black female astronaut; Jacqueline K. Barton, the chairwoman of the chemistry department at Caltech; and Padmasree Warrior, Cisco’s chief technology officer — as well as nearly 300 other mentors. They will answer questions submitted online by students at any of the universities participating in the project, which is known as Women in Technology Sharing Online, or WitsOn.
为了增加理工科专业的女生人数，克拉韦博士邀请六位杰出女性担任她们的导师，包括世界上第一位黑人女宇航员梅·C·杰米森(Mae C. Jemison)；加州理工学院化学系主任杰奎琳·K·巴顿(Jacqueline K. Barton)；思科公司(Cisco)首席技术官帕德马斯里·瓦里奥(Padmasree Warrior)——以及其他近300位导师。她们将回答参与该项目的各所大学的学生在线提交的问题，这个项目被称为女性科技共享在线课程(WitsOn)。
Undergraduates at other colleges can participate by getting a faculty member to nominate them. Although the program is especially designed for women, men will also be able to ask questions.
According to the Web site, the project could even lead to jobs. “We will do our best to connect students who are interested in positions with mentors’ organizations that have positions to fill,” it says.
A test forum in May attracted more than 800 questions in a day, according to Pooja Sankar, the founder of Piazza, a WitsOn sponsor. Young women had a wide range of queries: “How sexist is programming?” “How did you get where you are?” “Do you have time for your family?” “When is it right to correct misunderstandings about women in technology fields and when do you have to just let it slide?” And, inevitably, “Can I work for you?”
Ms. Sankar, who went to engineering school in India, said that given her own awkward experiences in school, she had long wanted to offer support to female students.
“I was embarrassed to look at a boy, much less ask a question about homework,” Ms. Sankar said. “I didn’t have a support group, and I thought it was because I was growing up in a traditional society. What was such a surprise, when I was at Facebook and Sheryl Sandberg had a session for women engineers, was that American girls, even if they’d gone to coed high schools, felt the same sense of isolation.”
Jacqueline El-Sayed, a professor of mechanical engineering at Kettering University, said WitsOn could help bolster the confidence of women who think differently from their male classmates — giving answers that are correct but unexpected, and in response getting what some call “the look.”
凯特林大学(Kettering University)机械工程学教授杰奎琳·埃尔-赛义德(Jacqueline El-Sayed)说，WitsOn项目可以帮助那些认为自己与男同学不同的女生培养自信心——给出正确而意想不到的答案，让她们获得成功的机会。
WitsOn’s somewhat unstructured approach is in some ways similar to the earliest massive online courses, created years before Harvard, M.I.T., Stanford and other leading universities started offering free online versions of their traditional campus classes. Like WitsOn, the first MOOCs were meant to help form connections online rather than provide a formal curriculum. The participants shaped the content, often interacting in so many different online threads that no student or teacher could follow all of them.
“In a connectivist MOOC, people get out of it what they put into it,” said Stephen Downes of the National Research Council of Canada, a pioneer of the early MOOCs. “It’s something like a Yahoo group or other interest-based community. But it has a start date and an end date, and it pulls people out of different networks and plops them into a new one, which results in new connections and gets people hearing new voices.”
加拿大国家研究院(National Research Council of Canada)的斯蒂芬·唐斯(Stephen Downes)是早期MOOC网络课程的先驱，他表示，“在关联MOOC中，人们付出什么就收获什么。这有点像雅虎小组或其他以兴趣为基础的社区。但是这些课程有开放日期和终止日期，吸引来自不同网络的人，让他们关注新的课程，这会建立新的交流，让人们听到新的声音。”
WitsOn is not the only connectivist MOOC starting this fall. Athabasca University in Alberta — along with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Educause, a nonprofit organization focused on information technology; The Chronicle of Higher Education; and others — will present one called Current/Future State of Higher Education.
WitsOn并不是今年秋天唯一开放的关联MOOC。加拿大阿尔伯塔省的阿萨巴斯卡大学(Athabasca University)，以及比尔和梅林达·盖茨基金会(Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation)，专注于信息技术的非营利组织Educause，《高等教育纪事报》(The Chronicle of Higher Education)——将推出一个称为“现在/未来国家高等教育”的项目。
Empire State College, a division of SUNY, will offer VizMath, which Carol Yeager, a leader, said would be about “the visualness of math — things like math in art, Escher’s work, and exploring hyperbolic curves through knitting.” Participants will have the option of taking the class for credit at Empire State.