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Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering
SJR: 0.468 SNIP: 0.671 CiteScore™: 1.65

ISSN Imprimir: 1072-8325
ISSN En Línea: 1940-431X

Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering

DOI: 10.1615/JWomenMinorScienEng.v14.i3.20
pages 253-267


Matthew M. Fifolt
University of Alabama at Birmingham
Gypsy Abbott
University of Alabama at Birmingham


Although slight gains have been made in attracting women and minority students to the field of engineering, the differences are not great enough to meet current economic demands [National Academy of Sciences (2007). Rising above the gathering storm: Energizing and employing America for a brighter economic future, Washington, DC: National Academies Press]. Therefore, it has become imperative that colleges and universities increase efforts to both recruit and retain these students who express interest in the STEM fields [National Science Foundation (2006), Women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in science and engineering, NSF 4-311, Arlington, VA: NSF]. In engineering, one promising venue for students to gain professional experience as part of their undergraduate training is through cooperative education (co-op). However, there is a dearth of information in the research literature regarding how co-op programs can be structured to address the needs of diverse students. There is consensus, however, about one aspect of addressing the needs of diverse students, namely, mentoring and role models are key strategies for success. In this study, a mixed methods design was used to examine students' perceptions of mentoring in a cooperative education program in a southeastern university. Using Noe's [Noe, R. (1988). An investigation of the determinants of successful assigned mentoring relationships. Personnel Psychology, 1, 457−479] mentoring functions scales, which described psychosocial and career-related support, research findings indicated a statistically significant difference between gender and the psychosocial aspect of mentoring. Analysis of the qualitative data further confirmed differences in cooperative education experiences with respect to both gender and ethnicity.