NeXXt Scholars Program

Location  International and United States

Sponsor  The New York Academy of Sciences

Partners  U.S. Department of State, U.S. women’s colleges

Addressing a growing gender gap in STEM education, the NeXXt Scholars Program helps young women from countries with predominantly Muslim populations and young American women pursue undergraduate degrees in STEM fields.
 
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Although women earn half of all undergraduate college degrees, they earn only 20 percent of the college degrees in STEM. As half of the potential workforce, women are critical to future innovations in STEM—but only if the number of women seeking education and careers in STEM increases.

Mentoring has proven to be a successful strategy in addressing this gender gap. The importance of a personal relationship in encouraging young women to continue their studies in college and enter fields like science, math, and engineering cannot be overstated. As a unique mentoring partnership initiative, the NeXXt Scholars Program demonstrates how mentoring can be a powerful force in encouraging women to study and work in STEM fields.

Launched by former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the U.S. State Department, the NeXXt Scholars Program connects young women from around the world with professional women working in STEM fields. It supports them as they pursue studies in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The scholars are selected from among young women from countries with predominantly Muslim populations and American students at women’s colleges in the U.S.

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All scholars are matched with fellows—women working in STEM professions—who act as their mentors. They support the scholars as they navigate their undergraduate careers, providing advice and guidance on career paths and professional development.

The program provides these students with support activities, including the mentoring, online workshops on soft skills development, networking events, and partnership opportunities.

As educational role models for many women in developing and predominantly Muslim countries are scarce, mentoring provides friendship, support, and unique perspectives that can encourage women to pursue education in STEM fields.

The program leverages the New York Academy of Sciences’ vast membership network to provide the scholars with mentors and networking opportunities. Additionally, the young women gain access to leadership training, internships, workshops, and research opportunities to build their skills and confidence.

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In its two years of operation, the NeXXt Scholars program is already making a difference. Its scholar retention rate is 87.5 percent, and its network is diverse: the young women are from seven countries and attend eight institutions. In a sign of its growing strength, it has the support of 39 institutional partners, including the U.S. Department of State.

Next up: NeXXt Scholars aims to grow its ability to retain the number of STEM majors selected by the scholars, and it will expand its scope to include high school girls around the world.