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The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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Pitt track and field athlete inducted into Delaware Sports Museum & Hall of Fame
Pitt track and field athlete inducted into Delaware Sports Museum & Hall of Fame
By Grace McNally, Staff Writer • June 13, 2024
Opinion | Long-distance friendships are possible
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • June 6, 2024

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Pitt track and field athlete inducted into Delaware Sports Museum & Hall of Fame
Pitt track and field athlete inducted into Delaware Sports Museum & Hall of Fame
By Grace McNally, Staff Writer • June 13, 2024
Opinion | Long-distance friendships are possible
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • June 6, 2024

Pink Panthers+ Mentorship Program shows high school women they belong at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering

Emily+Staerk+%28left%29+from+Spring-Ford+High+School+and+Ryleigh+Marks+%28right%29+from+Moon+Township+prepare+vacuum+forming+molds+during+the+Pink+Panther+event+on+Friday+evening.
Evan Fuccio | Staff Photographer
Emily Staerk (left) from Spring-Ford High School and Ryleigh Marks (right) from Moon Township prepare vacuum forming molds during the Pink Panther event on Friday evening.

When Kristin Bindas was first admitted to Pitt, she said she was so excited to receive an email with an invitation to “an exclusive event” — the Pink Panthers+ mentorship program. 

“When I got invited to the program, I was super excited to come to Pitt and sign up for the first day,” Bindas, a senior bioengineering major, said. “When I was [here], I was like, this is awesome. This is what college is.”

Pink Panthers+ is a one-day program that gives high school girls a glimpse into a day in the life of an actual female STEM student at Pitt. This experience is offered to admitted high school students who identify as women and are pursuing a degree in a STEM field. 

One or two high schoolers are paired with a mentor whose major aligns with their intended major as they explore campus, tour a lab, get the chance to sit in on a class, explore Forbes Hall, visit a dining hall and, of course, meet other engineering students. 

“Being able to actually walk through the buildings, see how students are interacting with each other and talk with them — I was even talking with [my mentor’s] friends,” Bindas said. “It felt like a place where everyone was friends with each other and was going to work together to help each other.”

All Pink Panthers mentors volunteer for this leadership opportunity. A lot of the mentors were mentees themself, Bindas highlighted, and this is an aspect that was “really helpful” when Bindas came to shadow for her first time at Pitt. 

“I was able to ask a lot of questions about the [STEM] program from someone who wasn’t necessarily hired by the school — who wasn’t paid to say only good things about it,” Bindas said. “Although, it was only good things, of course. I kind of felt like I was getting an in, like I was getting to know the secrets of the school.”

As soon as Bindas got home from her event, she committed to Pitt. 

“Not a lot of schools were making it a point to reach out to [admitted students],” Bindas said. “Ultimately, that is the reason I decided to come here.”

After coming to Pitt, Bindas said “it was nice having [a] connection already established” with her mentor. Now that Bindas is a senior at Pitt, she’s taken on the role of a Pink Panthers+ mentor herself. 

“This program is what really started it all for me,” Bindas said. “The goal is really to use your leadership skills to encourage and reach out to the student. I’ve really learned how to start conversations, and it’s always the question of, ‘what would I want to ask if I was a mentee right now?’”

For Marissa Bix, a current senior at State College Area High School accepted into the bioengineering program, the Pink Panthers+ event made her “feel more secure in [her] decision” to commit to Pitt. She said this personalized experience showed her that being a woman in STEM and “having fun in college is totally doable.”

“I think it’s really special because I was one-on-one, so I got to ask a ton of questions, got to hear about personal experiences,” Bix said. “I feel like in a group tour, I might not have been as comfortable asking so many of those questions.” 

Bindas reflected on her own mentee experience and finds it really cool that, now, she can recognize some of the girls pictured during her first tour as some of her own friends. 

This is what the entire program is about for Beth Peters, co-director of first-year recruitment and women’s programs, including the Pink Panthers+ mentorship program. 

“We want the ladies to be able to connect with one another,” Peters said. “Last year, we were at the orientation fair, and we had two mentees come up to us saying, ‘We decided to room together!’ … That’s exactly what we want — for them to feel supported before they get here.”

Vedha Masuraha, a senior at Unionville High School, came to Pitt for a Pink Panthers+ event on Friday, March 1. She hopes to study computer engineering because she “loves collaborating with people.” 

Pink Panthers+ gave Masuraha the perfect opportunity to connect with students her age, in the same intended area of study. 

“Pink Panthers was definitely a really fun experience getting to meet people I’ve never met before, collaborating in an environment that I’m not really used to or accustomed to,” Masuraha said. “It definitely helped me assimilate into the college culture and meet people I wouldn’t have otherwise.” 

Once students commit to Pitt, support for women in STEM doesn’t stop at the Pink Panthers+ program, according to Peters.

The Swanson School of Engineering has the Women in Engineering program, which is a resource that gives their female students an “intimate setting,” Peters said. The program offers workshops about imposter syndrome, salary negotiations, work-life balance and entertaining activities such as a fashion show, to make sure “when they go into the workforce, they feel empowered,” Peters said.

“The support and the network are all really important, and it all started from the day they apply to Pitt,” Peters said. “We want to make sure that our ladies are geared up and ready to go … [we want them] to know that they belong, that they are a part of something bigger and that they have a seat at the table. Their voice is really important.”



About the Contributor
Briana Bindus, Staff Writer