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  • Writer's pictureDonna Milgram

Preventing Imposter Syndrome in Students

While attending the Winter ICT Educator Conference held at Cisco headquarters in January, I attended a workshop on Role Models … and one of the things the role model panel talked most urgently about was experiencing Impostor Syndrome (IS). 

Imposter Syndrome is defined by the National Institutes of Health as behaviorally serious “self-doubt of intellect, skills, or accomplishments among high-achieving individuals.” 

In your classes these are students who are getting 4.0s but still feel they are faking it, and feel they can’t succeed in the career pathway. 

And here’s the kicker – Imposter Syndrome is disproportionately experienced by women.

In the Q & A for the workshop, an IT instructor said his female students lacked confidence and asked the role models how they had overcome Imposter Syndrome, so he could help his students.

Here’s the thing: Overcoming Imposter Syndrome is not about just having more confidence. And – it’s specific to those who are already high achievers. 

What I shared with this instructor - and he said he found it very helpful - - is that you can help prevent Imposter Syndrome. 

You can help prevent Imposter Syndrome by designing activities for your students to do during the first week of class that will show them that Yes, they really can do it!

But what kind of activities help prevent Imposter Syndrome? 

I recommend hands-on lab activities for STEM classes.  These could look like a Programming Project using SCRATCH. Or Changing a Tire, for an Auto Class. 

During the WomenTech Educators Retention Bootcamp, I have teams come up with these activities in their Retention Plan. It’s just one of 12 strategies in the Retention Plan Template that they complete with their team in the course of the 8-hour Retention Training.

Do you need to improve your student retention rates in your Career and Technical Education Programs, especially for your female students? 

Then talk with me about contract training or writing us into your Perkins grant. I have a few spots in my schedule during the next couple of weeks. Just fill out this quick form and you’ll receive a link to my calendar. I look forward to talking soon.

I would recommend the WomenTech Bootcamp to other Auto Programs: it was eye-opening and transformative for our automotive and diesel programs. For example, we hadn’t considered the size of women’s uniforms, or how the lab experience could be improved for female students, or how to prepare women for industry shop culture – which can be rough.

The WomenTech Bootcamp was outcome focused. In less than one week we created Robust Recruitment and Retention Plans with the responsible parties and a timeline. But on our own at the College, it would have taken us multiple meetings over multiple months just to discuss our ideas, much less get names on paper and ideas into a plan template. It really accelerated the planning process.

The WomenTech Bootcamp will help improve your program’s overall health. It makes sense to target a population that’s under-represented, to create a more inclusive model.  I see our qualified female technicians filling the workforce demand for our industry partners. 

Michael LeBlanc

Automotive Instructor, Department Chair,

Principal Investigator, NSF ATE, “Accelerating Advanced Electric Vehicle Technician Education While Increasing the Recruitment and Retention of Women”

Linn-Benton Community College, Lebanon, Oregon



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