About the CareerWISE Program

The CareerWISE Academic Resilience Coach helps women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs find ways to better manage the challenges in their immediate environments and expand personal skills for thriving in their future. 

The CareerWISE Academic Resilience Coach is an individualized online program that pairs empirically based psychological education with an interactive simulated environment to provide users with practice opportunities. The Coach is the first program of its kind to provide systematic training in academic resilience and interpersonal communication skills customized for women in STEM PhD programs. The program is built on an extensive foundation of theory and research on psychological processes, environmental context, and personal behaviors that contribute to diverse women’s experiences in academic and STEM career paths.

The CareerWISE Coach: Details

  • Customized for women pursuing PhDs in STEM fields.
  • Highlights four key areas of concern reported by women who are in STEM doctoral programs: Relationships with advisors (Advisors), struggle to manage both academic and personal priorities (Balance), unwelcoming climates in academic departments (Climate), and facing unexpected hurdles during the degree program (Delays and Setbacks).
  • Teaches a four-step, solution-focused problem-solving method that is tailored to augment the technical problem solving frameworks already familiar to STEM students and build skills to handle personal and interpersonal problems.
  • Provides interpersonal communication skill training using a live actor-based simulated learning environment with both written and video content.
  • Includes modules on understanding yourself and the context of situations.
  • Features over 150 HerStory clips from videotaped interviews with women who have successfully navigated the hurdles of graduate school in a variety of STEM fields.
  • Effectiveness of the CareerWISE Coach

To evaluate the effectiveness of the original CareerWISE Coach, a nationwide Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT) was conducted with women in STEM Ph.D. programs. Results from the trial indicated that when compared to wait-list control research volunteers, participants who utilized the CareerWISE Coach for at least five hours showed statistically significant advantages in key measures of problem-solving, resilience, and coping efficacy, all of which are linked to persistence. These and pre-post findings from the RCT provided strong evidence for the effectiveness of the Coach. In a related analysis using a scenario-based assessment instrument, treatment group participants demonstrated significantly better knowledge and application of interpersonal problem-solving steps to a fictional STEM scenario than did wait-list controls. Details of the RCT studies and results can be found herehere, and here.

In the second phase of Coach development, the content was broadened to include in-depth training in interpersonal communication skills. An applied component accompanies instructional modules on seven basic and advanced interpersonal communication skills. An interactive live actor-based simulated learning environment allows users to practice specific interpersonal communication skills with STEM scenarios.  A second nationwide Randomized Controlled Trial was conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of the interpersonal communication skills training curriculum. Similar to the findings of the first RCT, participants who had three hours of access to the CareerWISE interpersonal communication training showed statistically significant improvement in perceived knowledge, coping self efficacy, and ability to apply interpersonal communication skills when compared to wait-list control participants. See Publications and Presentations for more information.

The CareerWISE Research Program  

The CareerWISE Research Program is supported by the National Science Foundation and features a range  of interdisciplinary research and development projects focused on women in science and engineering Ph.D. programs. Originating at Arizona State University (ASU) in 2006 under the direction of Dr. Bianca L. Bernstein, the CareerWISE Projects Leadership Team presently includes Dr. Jennifer Bekki at ASU, Dr. Kerrie Wilkins-Yel at the University of Massachusetts-Boston (UMB), and Dr. Ashley K. Randall at ASU.  The CareerWISE Research Program has three primary areas of emphasis: a) understanding deeply the program experiences and STEM persistence intentions for self-identified women from diverse racial/ethnic backgrounds, b)  identifying the forms and sources of support from members of the academic community (administrators, faculty, peers, staff) and beyond (partners, family) that are most beneficial to women in advancing to doctoral degree completion, and c) developing, evaluating, and optimizing internet-delivered psychological education for strengthening academic resilience and increasing persistence.