The University of Arizona Program in Visual Impairment is recruiting 10 industry mentors who are blind or visually impaired (VI) for the Project-based Learning Opportunities and Exploration of Mentorship for Students with Visual Impairments in STEM (Project POEM). Project POEM is funded through a three-year National Science Foundation grant.
Eligible industry mentors must meet the following two criteria to be considered as an industry mentor: (1) have a VI and (2) employed in a STEM-related [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] field in the United States. Additionally, the potential industry mentor must agree to commit a minimum of three hours of their time per month to the 14-month project.
If an individual meeting the criteria above is interested in applying to the program, s/he will be interviewed by two members of the Project POEM team. During the interview, project staff will verify if applicants are eligible to participate in the project. If accepted, a written consent form to summarize steps involved in the industry mentorship will be provided in regular print, large print, or braille.
The industry mentor will be engaged in and expected to fully participate in the following Project POEM activities, if accepted into the project:
1. Readiness Academy: In June 2020, a week-long summer experience will expose 25 students with VI between grades 7 to 11, to careers in STEM-related fields through hands-on activities at the University of Arizona (UA). Industry mentors will participate in an online training program through a web conferencing platform to mentor a student interested in STEM-related subjects and careers. The training sessions will focus on topics including establishing expectations, maintaining effective communication, assessing understanding, fostering independence, and addressing diversity.
2. Exploration activities will be conducted during the academic school year where the student with VI will have virtual meetings with an industry mentor who is working in a STEM-related career. Simultaneously, the student will work virtually with a university mentor to design and carry out a project to further understanding of the scientific inquiry practices based on PBL. During the exploration activities, students with VI will complete specified assignments together with their industry and university mentors.
3. Enrichment Institute: In the following summer, the students will return to Tucson for a one week to stay in a UA dorm and experience college life. During the day, the students will visit labs and job sites. The student will also present the Project POEM project-based learning activity that was worked on with the industry mentor and UA science student mentor. Industry mentors, university mentors, parents/guardians, and TVIs will be invited to join a symposium, held at the end of the week, either in person or virtually through a bidirectional internet-based video conferencing system.
4. Research Project: Industry mentors will complete surveys and interviews during each phase of the research project. At the beginning and end of Project POEM, the industry mentor will be given a survey to complete. The industry mentor will also be interviewed to understand his/her perceptions on student-industry mentor matching and to reflect on student outcomes.
Testimonials from previous industry mentors:
I found I really enjoyed the training and I learned a bunch from it…I haven’t really done a lot of mentorship with junior high and high school students. Learning…where they were developmentally and differences in where focuses might be from the students’ point of view—that was really educational to me and really worthwhile.
I think it certainly was helpful for my mentee to get a sense of how to apply the STEM knowledge into an industrial field. His interest was actually quite different from mine. As he put it, he was into bugs, whereas I’m a biomedical engineer. Entomology and biomedical engineering don’t necessarily mix all that well beyond the whole STEM umbrella. But our interactions in terms of, “Well, how do you interact with your colleagues?” What visual aids might you use? What is it like to be a visually impaired person interacting in a visual world?” I think that those were helpful and encouraging to him in the context of, “Well, okay. I can do this in the context of a visual world.”
To make a referral to Project POEM:
To refer an individual to apply as an industry mentor complete the form below and e-mail to Dr. Irene Topor. Or, fill out the form at the Project POEM website, and submit it electronically.
Visual Impairment: ________________________________________________________________
Braille reader: ____Yes ____No Print reader: ____Yes ____No Dual media reader: ____Yes ___No
Age: ___________________ Occupation: __________________________________________
Phone number: _______________________________________________________
Mailing address: ___________________________________________________________
Email address: _______________________________________________________
Industry Mentor meets two criteria to be considered in project: _________ Yes _________ No
Why did you choose this potential industry mentor for Project POEM?
Person making referral: ___________________________________________________________
Contact information: Phone: _______________________ Email: _________________________