Catherine Espaillat's Outreach

Dr. Catherine C. Espaillat
Assistant Professor of Astronomy
Boston University

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I think it is important to retain and advance women and underrepresented minority students (URMs) in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. Mentoring plays a role in this given that mentors help mentees access information and navigate the unspoken rules of academia.

I have a long track record of commitment to diversity and mentoring. As a graduate student at the University of Michigan (UM), I got involved in the Rackham Graduate School's mentoring program where I mentored first-year fellowship students in the STEM fields. Then I became the coordinator of the Michigan Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) Mentoring Program at UM. In addition to mentoring second-year URM graduate students, I supervised a team of mentors and I was involved in the administrative and management component of the mentoring program.

I continued to build my mentoring experience as a postdoctoral fellow by assuming leadership of Harvard University's Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (WISTEM) Mentor Program for three years. WISTEM matches women undergraduate students with women graduate students in a related field of study. The graduate student mentors serve as a source of support and experience to younger students. This occurs primarily through one-on-one mentoring. Mentors and mentees meet over coffee, lunch, and dinner throughout the academic year and are encouraged to discuss classes, research, and graduate school. In addition to providing access to one-on-one personal mentoring, I hosted events throughout the academic year to give participants an opportunity to interact with other WISTEM students as well as learn important information for navigating the STEM fields.

I am currently the Director of the League for Underrepresented Minorities in Astronomy (LUMA), a peer mentoring program for women of color postdocs and graduate students in Astronomy.