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Nevada EPSCoR Launches STEM Mentor Network

New online resource provides access to Nevada's finest mentors and premier research projects

Nevada students in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields will now have improved access to experienced research mentors thanks to a new online resource launched by the state's Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) office. The Nevada STEM Mentor Network provides an extensive searchable database of faculty research mentors together with access to research opportunities and partnerships in STEM via a single interactive, user-friendly website.

"With this website the intent is to engage students further in STEM research opportunities and ultimately help build the STEM workforce in Nevada," says Michele Casella, the Education, Outreach and Diversity Administrator for the Nevada System of Higher Education Sponsored Programs & EPSCoR Office in a press release.

Already the system provides access to more than a hundred mentor profiles, a number that is soon to grow to nearly two hundred. Students are able to search this statewide database for mentors by county, institution, discipline or a variety of other terms. For each mentor they find, the students will be able to view details about the researcher's background, expertise, mentoring experience, academic history and find out how to contact them through various modes including their social media sites.

"I knew an interactive website could really help the students get to know a mentor before meeting them," says Casella, who has steered the project to improve on the previous flat-formatted database. "We really wanted them to feel more confident and comfortable in reaching out as they take the journey through a mentoring relationship."

The network also aims to serve the STEM faculty in Nevada. In the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) many researchers are already active as mentors. Now these mentors can easily submit their profile and any current opportunities they have in STEM research. The researchers can also use the resource to connect with other members of the NSHE  to share research opportunities and collaborations.

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"We’re committed to connecting students and faculty to research opportunities statewide," Casella says. "So what I wanted was a one stop place that was engaging and helpful that could be viewed as a resource not only by the students, but by the faculty themselves."

Casella hopes that the network will help break down any barriers that exist in some student's minds about investigating a STEM career, as it will help students gain real hands-on experience in a STEM field. "I think such opportunities will diversify our STEM workforce bringing in more people," Casella says. "Hopefully it will help to bridge some of the breaks in the STEM pipeline."

The network also aims to be a site of inspiration for future mentees by highlighting currently mentored students on the website. There will also be profiles and videos of the researchers that mentor the students.

"We value the time and the dedication that it takes for a faculty member to mentor a student and we want to provide recognition of that effort," Casella says. "Having that information on the website is just a nice way to say thank you to those that are working hard in STEM in Nevada."

The Nevada STEM Mentor Network has been developed, tested and is now fully functional and available for use by students, faculty and prospective mentors.

“Creating successful role models in STEM fields can have a tremendous impact on students,” said John V. White, chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education. “Matching students with faculty mentors will increase student success, confidence, and persistence in these important fields. The STEM Mentor Network is an outstanding statewide resource for students at all NSHE institutions.”