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About STEMentors

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Main Quad, palm trees, Hoover Tower

Program History

Founded in 2020 by Dr. Jennifer Schwartz Poehlmann, Professor Robert Waymouth, Professor Lynette Cegelski, Dory DeWeese, and others in Stanford’s Chemistry Department, STEMentors has provided personalized mentorship and tutoring to nearly 200 first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented-minority students in the general chemistry courses CHEM 31A and CHEM 31B. In addition to dealing with wellness, belonging, and mental health, which have been particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic, the program provides assistance with course content and study skills, connects mentees with academic resources, and helps mentees get involved with clubs and research opportunities. The program aims to provide students with both social and academic support structures to ease their transition to Stanford and help them succeed in CHEM 31A and CHEM 31B.

Foundational classes like CHEM 31A and CHEM 31B are a key gateway into STEM majors, but discouraging experiences in these and other introductory courses are a major cause of students leaving the sciences before they have a chance to realize their potential. As researchers including Stanford’s Professor Shima Salehi have shown, students from underrepresented groups are disproportionately affected, often due to less prior experience with course content and less awareness of how to use university and course-specific resources effectively. 

Through quantitative and qualitative analysis, the STEMentors program has proven effective in helping address these issues by supporting students through the academic and social challenges of general chemistry. For example, STEMentors increases students’ utilization of office hours and other resources, improves students’ sense of well-being, builds students’ confidence in their ability to succeed in chemistry, and even improves students’ course performance. Introductory science courses can be tough, especially for students with less prior experience, and programs like STEMentors can help students get through the initial difficulty to find success in a STEM field. Building on this strong foundation, we hope to expand STEMentors to other courses and departments at Stanford! 

Program Details

Mentees meet weekly with their mentors in small groups of 5 to 10 students to discuss the Core Topics listed below, review course content, and work together on practice problems. Mentees also meet one-on-one with mentors 2 to 3 times during the quarter for additional tutoring and support. Dory and the 6-8 student mentors foster belonging and community within mentor groups, create instructional materials, make presentations on study skills and chemistry problem-solving, and collect feedback from students on how course instruction could be made more accessible.

STEMentors Core Topics

  • Study strategies
    • Studying effectively and efficiently for college science courses
    • Making the most of lectures, textbook readings, and assignments
    • Preparing effectively for exams and reviewing questions after exams
    • Emphasis on reflective learning   
  • Problem solving strategies
    • Using an evidence-based Problem Solving Template on assignments and exams
    • Learning how to solve scientific problems accurately and efficiently  
  • Time management
    • Making personal calendars and to-do lists
    • Prioritizing between various tasks, responsibilities, and activities   
  • Holistic wellness and self-care
    • Learning healthy habits and practicing them regularly
    • Discussing challenges and how to grow from them in a safe, positive environment
    • Making time for self-care and things that make you happy 
  • Community and belonging 
    • Promoting a genuine sense of belonging and community, including by building supportive friendships and forming study groups with other STEMentors participants
    • Fostering a safe, positive environment to discuss feelings and experiences related to belonging at Stanford and in other contexts
    • Getting involved with Stanford's Centers for Equity, Community, and Leadership 
  • Future growth 
    • Academic planning
    • Getting involved in research and extracurriculars
    • Setting goals that align with your values and taking steps towards these goals
    • Preparing for and assuming leadership roles in STEMentors and other programs
  • Individualized guidance to Stanford resources 
  • Utilizing course specific resources 
    • Office hours
    • Problem Solving Workshops
    • Asking for help effectively from instructors 


The STEMentors program is funded by the Stanford Chemistry Department and Leland Scholars Program.