University Mentor

The University of Arizona Program in Visual Impairment is recruiting 10 university student mentors for the Project-based Learning Opportunities and Exploration of Mentorship for Students with Visual Impairments in STEM Project (Project POEM).  Project POEM is funded through a three-year National Science Foundation grant.


Eligible university student mentors must meet the following two criteria to be considered as a mentor: (1) currently enrolled in an undergraduate or a graduate program at The University of Arizona and (2) majoring in one of the STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] areas.  Additionally, the potential mentor must agree to attend a six-hour mentoring training and commit a minimum of four hours per month to project activities.


If a potential mentor is interested in applying to the program, s/he will be interviewed by two members of the Project POEM team. During the interview, the team will verify if applicants are eligible to participate in the project. If accepted, a written consent form to summarize steps involved in the university mentorship will be provided.


University student mentors are expected to fully participate in the 14-month project which includes mentor training and activities. The primary focus of the university student mentorship is to familiarize middle and high school students with VI in scientific inquiry by completing an assignment collaboratively with the supportive guidance of the university mentors.


The university mentor will be engaged in the following Project Poem activities, if accepted:

1. Readiness Academy:  In June 2020, a week-long summer experience will expose 10 students with visual impairments (VI) between grades 7 to 11, to careers in STEM-related fields through hands-on activities at the University of Arizona (UA). University student 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, addressing diversity, and dealing with research ethics.

2. Exploration activities will be conducted during the academic school year where the middle or high school student with VI 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. Simultaneously, the middle or high school student will be assigned to and have virtual meetings with an industry mentor who is working in a STEM-related career. During the exploration activities, the participating middle and high school students will complete specified assignments together with their industry and university mentors.

3. Enrichment Institute: In the following summer, the middle and high school 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 university student mentor. Industry mentors, university student mentors, parents/guardians, and TVIs will be invited to join the symposium either in person or virtually through a bidirectional internet-based video conferencing system.

4.  Research Project: University student mentors will complete surveys and interviews during each phase of the research project. At the beginning and end of Project POEM, the university student mentor will be given a survey to complete. The university student mentor will also be interviewed to understand his/her perceptions on student-university mentor matching and to reflect on middle and high school students’ outcomes.


Testimonials from former University mentor:

I decided to be a Project POEM mentor because I have mentored students in the past and I found it to be rewarding for both myself and my mentees. And I was interested in promoting the STEM fields and its availability to anyone—not just individuals without disabilities.

The staff was great about answering any questions that we had, even after the training when we were working with the mentees. The online training was really awesome because I had personally never worked with a visually disabled student…It allowed me to learn the culture and learn what was okay and what wasn’t okay, in some sense. It helped me to also understand exactly how we’re going to be communicating this really complicated science to someone who doesn’t necessarily have the same abilities that we all do.


To make a referral to Project POEM:

For more information, please contact Dr. Irene Topor at 520-626-3863; or Dr. Sunggye Hong at 520-621-0945;

To refer a student to apply as a university mentor complete the form below and e-mail to Dr. Irene Topor. Or, you can fill out the form  at the Project POEM website and submit it electronically.

Name: ____________________________________________________________________

Age:  ___________________     Major: __________________________________________

Phone number: _______________________________________________________

Email address: _______________________________________________________

Potential university mentor meets two criteria to be considered in project:    _______ Yes    _______ No

Why did you choose this potential university mentor for Project POEM?


Person making referral: ___________________________________________________________

Contact information:   Phone: _______________________ Email:  _________________________