Growing stronger through virtual connections

By Lauren Winton

Published: May 6, 2021 8:00:00 AM

Left photo, second from the right: Barbara Staples. Right photo, right: Molly Boudreaux Left photo, second from the right: Barbara Staples. Right photo, right: Molly Boudreaux

Molly Boudreaux and Barbara Staples got a late start, they like to say. The mentor and mentee met during Boudreaux’s sophomore year. The 100+ Women Strong mentorship match happened after the 2018 April meeting. And while Staples and Boudreaux met a few times on campus, their mentorship relationship grew to what it is today over the COVID-19 lockdown.

“I guess you could say it was the silver lining of the pandemic,” Staples said. “On a normal year, I would make it back to campus only a couple of times. Since we are all virtual, Molly and I have been able to connect and catch up at least once a month.”

Staples is a 1982 industrial engineering graduate. She works at Noblis, Inc. in Washington, D.C., and she knew right away after learning about the 100+ Women Strong program that she wanted to participate.

“When I was at Auburn, I was a young female engineer in a man’s world, and I did not have mentors. I knew I wanted to mentor someone else – to tell them to hang in there, persevere. Joining 100+ Women Strong and taking Molly as a mentee was my way to help,” said Staples.

Like Staples, Boudreaux is pursuing her degree in industrial and systems engineering and has faced the question of whether or not this is field she is meant to pursue.

“I knew I wanted to come to Auburn, but after my sophomore year, I considered transferring to a school closer to my home in Florida,” Boudreax said. “But after meeting Dr. Molly Hughes, Mrs. Barbara and seeing other women engineers through 100+ Women Strong, I saw a place for myself here.”

Although her mother is an industrial and systems engineer, Boudreaux said it is most helpful to find other women in her field to inspire and counsel her. While the pandemic changed class schedules and made meeting in person impossible, Boudreaux only grew in her sense of community at Auburn.

“We (Mrs. Barbara and I) decided to make our meetings a priority and put it on the calendar,” Boudreaux said.

The mentor and mentee set up time for phone calls or FaceTime each month. And their standing meetings have been integral for both of them.

“This year has been my hardest year at Auburn,” said Boudreaux. “It’s challenging to complete interviews and coursework when you’re not face-to-face. Having Mrs. Barbara to talk through it, to celebrate the little victories has been so helpful.”

For both Boudreaux and Staples, the 100+ Women Strong program allowed them to make a connection that will last a lifetime. The help, support and wise counsel mentors can provide is especially important during a time when students face challenges and new hurdles that have not been previously seen. Mentorship also allows alumni to re-engage, regardless of where they are in geographic relation to Auburn.

“It’s been a really rewarding experience,” said Staples. “I’d highly recommend it.”

Media Contact: Lauren Winton, lmw0090@auburn.edu, 334.844.5519

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