STEM Pathways - High School to Postsecondary

We are currently investigating the transition from high school to postsecondary work or education among students, especially those from low-income backgrounds. How do individuals become interested in STEM fields and how they manage to persist in their career aspirations over time? How do young people find ways to align their educational plans with their career aspirations or transfer from a community college to a four-year college? What do STEM career aspirations look like for students who are first generation to finish high school or go to college and what do their pathways look like? Project Summary and Resources




Cultivating Mentoring

Our team is examining the nature of mentoring experiences across variety of sources and contexts, and how the nature of the mentoring experience influences outcomes gained. We have worked with businesses, community agencies, and colleges in the development and evaluation of mentoring programs. How do young people find mentoring experiences when they face a lack of readily accessible career mentors within their family networks? What strategies are particularly successful, and how does mentoring help to keep individuals "on track" toward their career goals? How can women develop mentoring networks or their own "board of directors" to increase success?



Positive Adolescent Development

For many years, we have worked closely with community-based. school-based, and college-sponsored positive youth development programs, especially those fostering leadership among girls and women. Professor Packard has served as an expert consultant in developing and evaluating programs and as a keynote speaker or workshop leader within programs. What elements of programs are most likely to foster long-term benefits among participants? How do organizations effectively organize outreach and mentoring programs? What do individuals learn from their participation in leadership programs?



Combining Work and School

We are focusing on students from lower-income or working class backgrounds, students that need to work while being in school and for whom the work environment is an important factor in their success – or the major challenge. Current foci include individuals using corporate tuition programs to support their progress in higher education, coping strategies of working students/employees who study, and what high school and college students gain from working in “career-relevant” jobs as compared to “random” jobs.






About our Research Team

Our research team consists of dynamic and diverse women from various stages of life and backgrounds, including first generation college students, transfer students, and nontraditional-aged students. We are committed to creating new knowledge, disseminating results, and engaging in reciprocol practices that are mutually beneficial to our collaborators. We often sponsor academic development programs with our collaborating partners. Most of our undergraduate students have paid research positions through Professor Packard's National Science Foundation grants.

Many students have participated in research on Professor Packard’s team, and in doing so, have gained valuable experience for graduate school or the workplace. Many of her students have co-authored articles published in research journals and have co-presented at national conferences. For example, one alum is the lead author on a piece that appeared in the Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, while another is the lead author on a piece that appeared in the Journal of Adult Development, while others have recently co-authored pieces appearing in the Journal of Career Development and Mentoring & Tutoring. Alums of her lab team have gone on to top positions in research laboratories affiliated with Harvard and UCSF, into teaching positions or to work for consulting research firms. Many have enrolled in Ph.D. and Masters programs in Educational Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Clinical Psychology, Counseling Psychology, and Social Work, while others have pursued advanced degrees in Business schools or Law schools.
PHONE: (413) 538-3071    EMAIL:
Becky Wai-Ling Packard, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology and Education
Director, Weissman Center for Leadership
Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA 01075