CareerWISE helps women in STEM programs find ways to better manage the challenges in their immediate environments and expand personal skills for thriving in their future.

The CareerWISE resource is an individualized online program that pairs empirically based pedagogical content with an interactive simulated environment that provides users with practice opportunities. It is the first program of its kind to provide systematic training in interpersonal communication skills customized for female students in STEM. The program is built on an extensive foundation of theory and research on psychological processes, environmental context, and personal behaviors that contribute to women’s experiences in academic and career paths.

TheCareerWISE Resource: Details
  • Customized for women pursuing PhDs in STEM fields
  • Organized around four key areas of concern reported by women STEM doctoral students: relationships with advisors (Advisors), struggle to manage both academic and personal priorities (Balance), chilly climates in academic departments (Climate), and facing unexpected hurdles during the degree (Delays).
  • Teaches a four-step, solution-focused problem-solving model 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.
  • Contains hundreds of HerStory clips from videotaped interviews with women who have successfully navigated the hurdles of graduate school in a variety of STEM fields.

The CareerWISE Research Program

The CareerWISE project is an NSF-funded, interdisciplinary research program housed at Arizona State University (ASU) and led by Drs. Bianca L. Bernstein (PI) and Jennifer M. Bekki (Co-PI). The CareerWISE research program has two major thrusts: 1) the development, optimization and formal evaluation of internet-delivered psychological education with the goal of increasing women’s persistence in science and engineering doctoral programs and 2) a research agenda that includes characterizing the experiences of women who are pursuing and leaving PhD programs in STEM discipline, developing theoretical models of women’s persistence in science and engineering, measuring learning in non-technical professional skills.

Effectiveness of the CareerWISE Resource

To test the effectiveness of CareerWISE I, the psychological education curriculum, a nationwide Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT) was performed in 2009-2010. Results from the trial indicated that when compared to research participants who were not given access to the resource, participants who had access to the CareerWISE site for five hours showed statistically significant advantages in self-assessed CareerWISE-related competencies, resilience, and confidence. These and other findings from the RCT provide strong evidence of the effectiveness of the resource. Details of the study and results of the RCT can be found in the Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering.

In the second phase of resource development, the content was broadened to include in-depth training in interpersonal communication skills. An applied component allows users to practice techniques associated with specific interpersonal communication skills using an interactive live actorbased simulated learning environment. A second nationwide Randomized Controlled Trial was conducted in 2013 to test the effectiveness of the interpersonal communication skills training curriculum. Similar to the findings of the first RCT, preliminary results indicate that 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 research participants who were not given access to the resource. These and other results are delineated in forthcoming papers.