Femineer™ Program: A Model for Engaging K-12 Girls in STEM

Dr. Cordelia Ontiveros, interim associate vice president for faculty affairs, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Cal Poly Pomona), serves as PLTW Affiliate Director. Cal Poly Pomona College of Engineering graduates the largest number of Hispanic students in engineering in California. Under her leadership as interim dean of the College of Engineering, the percentage of female students among the entering engineering student population increased by 50 percent, and the number of schools in the local area offering PLTW has increased by 16 percent in the last year. Ontiveros earned B.S., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees in chemical engineering.

At PLTW Summit 2017, Cal Poly Pomona College of Engineering – along with San Diego State University and the University of Iowa – was proud to present on the Femineer™ Program. The Femineer™ Program is a unique and innovative program devoted to inspiring and empowering K-12 female students to pursue STEM majors and careers. The Femineer™ Program enhances the College of Engineering’s commitment to support underserved populations by recruiting and graduating increased numbers of historically underrepresented students.

The Femineer™ Program started in the 2013-14 school year with a cohort of 24 female students (freshmen and sophomores) from Fremont Academy of Engineering and Design in Pomona Unified School District, California. These participants completed two years in the program during which they engaged in projects featuring creative robotics and wearable technology. The 2015-16 academic year marked the third year of this first cohort participating in the three-year program with a 100 percent retention rate. The results of this cohort showed that 22 out of 24 students went to a community college or university, with six students at Cal Poly Pomona and four of those students studying engineering.

In addition, the Femineer™ Program expanded to eight schools with over 150 students in the 2015-16 academic year. The expansion continued in the 2016-17 school year with 14 additional schools and over 300 students. Furthermore, the University of Iowa and San Diego State University signed on as affiliate universities ready to help start and expand the Femineer™ Program in their areas. The 2017-18 school year enlisted an additional 17 schools with over 350 students.

The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence recognized the Femineer™ Program for increasing educational outcomes and opportunities for female Hispanic K-12 students across the country. The program was commended for its focus and goals, which include mentoring opportunities for Hispanic K-12 students in STEM subjects and investing in support for teachers through professional development workshops.

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