The Origin Story

The Origin Story

The idea for a virtual mentoring programme came out of the very successful JEDI workshops; a novel conference format aimed at encouraging interaction and skills exchange, particularly for students, that have been run in several African countries for a decade.

After several workshops held in Mauritius, Prof. Bruce Bassett began to notice a worrying trend. Each JEDI successfully encouraged undergraduate students to pursue postgraduate studies in Astronomy abroad, but all of them were men. The undergraduate women tended to leave the field. In 2015, Bruce had the idea of initiating a virtual mentoring programme, and, with Dr. Nadeem Oozeer, they began to contact senior women researchers from their global networks asking them to help advise and mentor a group of undergraduate women in Mauritius.

Michelle Lochner agreed to be the facilitator of the pilot programme which had 8 Mauritian mentees and 7 mentors from all over the world. We ran a few great webinars on topics such as CV writing and work-life balance for women in Physics. All the mentors engaged regularly in personal mentoring sessions with their mentees, and we learnt a lot in the process. Out of our 8 mentees, one successfully obtained a scholarship to pursue postgraduate studies in South Africa, while several others are still in the process of applying for positions overseas. From the responses of the mentees, the programme had a very positive impact in their lives and can be considered a success.

Based on this success, in 2017 the pilot programme was relaunched as a new, global programme, the Supernova Foundation, under Michelle’s leadership.

The Supernova Foundation would like to thank the founding mentors of the Mauritian Mentoring programme:

Ghazal Geshnizjani
Renée Hložek
Michelle Lochner
Chiamaka Okoli
Valeria Pettorino
Sarah Shandera
Nosphiwo Zwane

We’d also like to thank our first group of mentees; as well as Nadeem Oozeer for advice and input; and, of course, Bruce Bassett for envisioning a potential solution to a difficult problem.

JEDI Mauritius, 2013