Expanding Mentorship Opportunities Through IEEE OES

Brandy ArmstrongIEEE OES

The OES Booth at OCEANS

Opportunities for Young Professionals and students abound at OCEANS and within the Oceanic Engineering Society.

May 6th, 2020

by Brandy Armstrong

Mentorship is now widely considered the key element leading to increased participation and retention of students and young professionals, and in particular women and minorities, in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. In response, scientific societies and organizations, including the IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society (OES), have been making an effort to increase mentorship opportunities for students and young professionals (YP). IEEE OES provides a support network, access to role models and personal interaction with experienced professionals to engage it’s students and YP members, helping them advance.

An OES Support Network

Opportunities for YPs and students abound at OCEANS and within the Society. However, the challenge has been making these opportunities, and the success of those who take advantage of them, visible to students and other YPs. Through a recent OES social media initiative, avenues for reaching students, YPs and other social media users, have been developed. Since the start of this initiative we have seen more participation from our student and YP members in the following opportunites: 

Student Competitions

Each year, the IEEE OES co-sponsors (with the Marine Technology Society) the Student Poster Competition (SPC) at the spring and fall OCEANS Conferences. This competition is supported by the Office of Naval Research and the Office of Naval Research Global. Cash awards for the winning posters as well as travel, food, lodging, and registration expenses of all students participating in the competition are provided. The SPC not only provides an opportunity for students to be recognized for and present their work, but also introduces them to the world of networking, peer review and volunteering through professional societies. Students are encouraged to join IEEE OES for free for the remainder of the year and to become involved in OES activities outside of the OCEANS conference.

Story Index
  • An OES Support Network
  • Student Competitions
  • Student Branch Chapter initiatives
  • Mentorship and Visibility
  • Exposure to Ocean role models
  • Success stories
  • On the tails of success
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Student Branch Chapter Initiatives 

The Young Professionals meetup at Seattle was well-attended

The Young Professionals meetup at Seattle was well-attended

The Student Branch Chapter (SBC) support program is designed to provide financial support to the SBCs for SBC chairs or representative to attend the OCEANS conference where they will be involved in supporting the society, the conference and promoting student activities and participation. Support can also be provided, up to a maximum of $2,000, for SBC initiatives such as technology demonstrations and/or participation in contests/competitions where OES related technologies are demonstrated. The financial support for travel to OCEANS and for technology initiatives is based on the available funds and the activity of the SBCs. Funding will also be considered for activities that can “kick start” an SBC to increase its society involvement.


The IEEE/OES "YP-BOOST" program consists of recruiting 2 new YPs every year, starting on January 1st of the year following the selection, for a total of 4 YPs for a given year when in permanent regime. Those chosen to participate in the leadership of the society will attend Administrative Committee meetings, become involved in diverse technological committees that lead focus areas identified by OES, and help with different aspects of the OCEANS conferences. The duration of this program for each selected candidate is 2 years, resulting in attendance of 4 OCEANS conferences, with travel covered by OES.

The program provides excellent career building opportunities for selected candidates, who network and develop relationships with professionals and mentor student attendees. YP Boost are actively recruited to participate in standing and technical committees and many have gone on to hold important leadership positions in the society under the mentorship of senior OES leadership. The YP Boost program has been so successful that we are planning a similar program to support Women in Engineering (WIE) called WIE Propel, which we hope will help increase the opportunities for women and the number of women in leadership positions.

Mentorship and Visibility

The OES Booth at OCEANS

The OES Booth at OCEANS gave students an opportunity to sign up for free IEEE OES memberships. This is the first time on-the-spot sign-up for registrations was provided.

The student activities committee (SAC) has recruited students and YP to participate in regular meetings to relay the types of opportunities and support they need to succeed. A request was made for at least one participant from each student branch chapter (SBC) to join the SAC. All YP-BOOST applicants are also invited to join the SAC. The SAC meetings provide a line of communication for sharing opportunities with students who are seeking mentorship and personal interaction with senior OES members. Inviting students and YP to join the committee has resulted in not only more participation in existing programs, but through their input we have developed new programs and initiatives that benefit students and YP.

One such program is the social media initiative, now in it’s third year. OES requested and received initiative funding for social media in 2018 and again for 2019, to create opportunities to get our student and YP members involved. In 2018 we started by establishing a presence on social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter). Now we are establishing a process for generating social media content that supports communication with, and participation of our student and young professional community as well as the community at large.

Through social media reporting grants, we have been able to bring 2 YP or student members to each OCEANS to provide daily coverage through social media channels. In addition students attending as SBC representatives to OCEANS and the YP Boost awardees have also been invited to participate in the social media reporting. The reporters work as a group, with senior OES members as mentors, to develop a plan and schedule conference coverage. Posts, pictures and videos are shared throughout the conference. Following the conference, a variety of articles are submitted by reporters to the Beacon and Earthzine, and subsequently shared to social media.

This initiative has effectively increased the lines of communication of the society with students and young professionals. It has also provided students and YPs with opportunities to get involved in leadership of the society, travel to OCEANS and share their professional experiences with others. Conversations, collaboration, and participation in an online community provide mentorship opportunities and make success visible to students and other YPs. It is important for students, YPs and minorities in STEM to see others like themselves succeeding. Having an accessible mentorship support structure where the success is highly visible on social media, is helping to retain those who might otherwise leave the society and possibly STEM fields.

This combination of mentorship and visibility has been effective for the OES, resulting in increased student and YP membership and participation throughout the Society. The percentage of student and YP members has increased from around 10% prior to the initiative to 37% in 2019. The number of Student Branch Chapters has doubled. Nomination of YP for Administrative Committee elections has increased. 

Exposure to Ocean Role Models

The Student Poster competition at Seattle saw heavy engagement between the students and the attendees

The Student Poster competition at Seattle saw heavy engagement between the students and the attendees

As a result of YP and student input, a mentorship program is being established in conjunction with the SPC and student social. Panels to engage Women in Engineering (WIE) and Young Professionals are becoming regular events at OCEANS. A half day YP Career Track will be introduced at OCEANS 2020 Gulf Coast as well as a full day of WIE special sessions.

The mentorship program introduces students and young professionals to more experienced attendees who can provide guidance throughout the week. Mentors and mentees are recommended to schedule career and research advice mentorship sessions throughout OCEANS, fostering a mentoring relationship. These short meetings allow students and young professionals to ask about graduate school, networking and career pathways.

The panels bring together individuals diverse in their career stages, employment type, and experiences to share their perspectives and answer questions about career paths and how to advance. Women share their perspectives and answer questions about how to advance and face challenges women experience in STEM fields.

Success Stories

YP-Boost awardees and WIE Liaison chilling at the Ice breaker at OCEANS Seattle

Some of the YP-Boost awardees and WIE Liaison chilling at the Ice breaker at OCEANS Seattle along with the OES Vice President for Professional activities, Brandy Armstrong

Fausto Farreira and Shyam Madhusudhana, the first pair of YP-BOOST honorees, were promoted into positions on the Administrative Committee left vacant by those who had been voted onto the Executive Committee. Fausto has since been voted into a position on the RECON committee while Shyam has moved into the role of OES student poster chair and Technology committee coordinator. This not only showcases the success of the YP-BOOST program, but also allowed OES to bring in 4 new YP-BOOST honorees in 2019 to reap the benefits of the program. 

Farheen Fauziya, who has participated as a reporter in our social media initiative and has been active in her local WIE chapter, was nominated and voted into the position of WIE Liaison. She successfully recruited members and petitioned for a new student branch chapter at the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi.

Hari Vishnu, from YP Boost's second pair, is now the editor-in-chief of Earthzine and has been instrumental in reimagining and rebooting the society’s online magazine

Jeff Dusek, from YP’s third pair chosen, has been voted in as the new Student Activites Committee chair. 

Earthzine editors, authors and board-of-directors met up at Seattle for their second successive meeting since Earthzine was rebooted in June 2019.

Earthzine editors, authors and board-of-directors met up at Seattle for their second successive meeting since Earthzine was rebooted in June 2019.

Laura Hode, Courtney Bouchard and Uchenna Nwankwo, student members who applied to attend OCEANS Charleston 2018, have since successfully petitioned for a new student branch chapter at University of Southern Mississippi

Many of the YP who applied and were not chosen to become members of YP have still become more involved in IEEE OES through membership in the SAC. Three are active volunteers supporting the OES social media initiative. Manu Ignatius, Hari Vishnu and Stephanie Kemna participate as social media reporters, relaying current events, opportunities, and news from around the world to a queue that supplies posts to LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Thirteen SAC members are volunteering as editors for Earthzine. Rajat Mishra acts as administrative support for the IEEE OES Earthzine WordPress site and Open Journal System submission site.

On the Tails of Success

Bolstered by our success, OES is continuing to seek the input and participation of it’s student, women and YP members. In the future we hope to offer ever more opportunities for the future leaders of OES, so that through ensuring their success, they will ensure OES continues to be a source of opportunities and mentorship for others in the future.