Lina Mohamad, a sophomore pursuing a degree in human biology, grew up with limited role models. “Finding someone else who is a Black woman in STEM is challenging,” she says. “I haven’t met many.” And then she found Stanford’s WCC STEM Program.
Birthed in 2017 as a collaboration between the Women’s Community Center and the Office of the Vice Provost for Graduate Education, the program aims to connect aspiring grad students with actual grad students in science, technology, engineering, and math. Mentors advise some 68 mentees through their undergraduate coursework, demystify the grad school application process, and provide full disclosure about the ups and downs of advanced study in the sciences. The hope is to nudge U.S. statistics like these: In 2017–18, women accounted for only 36 percent of master’s degrees earned in mathematics, 29 percent in computer science, and 27 percent in engineering, according to Pew Research Center.
‘Being able to get even the smallest piece of insight to a mentee is really beneficial and fulfilling. I don’t want people to have to go through the same shortfalls that I did.’
Mentor matchmaking is the responsibility of graduate coordinator Aliyah Smith, MS ’21, a PhD student in aeronautics and astronautics, and undergraduate coordinator Alana Mermin-Bunnell, a senior majoring in bioengineering. “Being able to get even the smallest piece of insight to a mentee is really beneficial and fulfilling,” says Smith, who served as a mentor for the first two years of the program. “I don’t want people to have to go through the same shortfalls that I did.”
Most participants are looking to be matched by discipline, with undergraduates hoping for an older-sister figure who can provide guidance on summer internships, research opportunities, and more. “A group of our mentees and their mentor went tide pooling together this year,” Mermin-Bunnell says. “Having that one-on-one time to talk to someone who understands their experiences is not something people always experience in class or in lab.”
Mohamad says she feels more comfortable and confident in herself, thanks to her mentor. “She was very open about not letting me get taken advantage of in a lab space or doing too much work, and figuring out what’s in my best interest. [Seeing] someone who looks like me in that field provides a sense of belonging and assurance.”
Rachel Lit, ’25, is an editorial intern at Stanford. Email her at email@example.com.