Salas, R., Aragon, Aragon, A., Alandejani, J., & Timpson, W.M. (2014). Mentoring Experiences and Latina/o University Student Persistence. Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, 1-14.
In the article “Mentoring Experiences and Latina/o University Student Persistence” (Salas, et al), the authors examined the experiences of Latina/o students who participated in a college mentoring program. The study was designed to look at the overall experiences of students who participated in the program, and evaluate to what extent the experience contributed to their academic success and persistence.
Participants were chosen from a list of current or former mentors. Out of the initial 30 students that were identified as possible candidates, 17 agreed to participate. There were 9 female and 8 male participants. Two of the 17 reported health and family issues, and chose not to participate. Of the 15 remaining, 12 students were from in-state, and 3 were from out-of-state. All participants were either currently serving, or who had previously served as a mentor.
The study took place at a land grant institution in a mountain west state. The institutions minority make-up was as follows – Ethnic minority for all university (13.6%), Latina/o (6.9%), Asian American (3.1%), African American (2.3%), and Native American (1.5%).
Testing consisted interviews, conducted in two rounds with each participant, with a follow up interview 3 to 4 weeks later. The study explored the following questions:
- “What meanings did Latina/o students ascribe to their experience in the university mentoring program?”
- “How did these students experience their academic program at the university?”
- “What effect did participation in the mentoring program have on their persistence?”
- “Were there common experiences, stories told, and/or factors that these Latina/o students described as participants in the mentoring program?” (p. 4)
Analysis of the interview was done using an Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), which explored individual experiences of the participants and other factors that they identified as contributing to their success. More specifically, the study was to determine, to what extent, Latina/o students were able to transition to college successfully, get involved in leadership opportunities, engage with academic and cultural activities and resources, and persist.
For the most part, participants consistently reported that their participation in the mentoring program helped them to be successful. Participants were better able to navigate the collegiate experience, increase knowledge and appreciation for other cultures, improve time management and time management skills, build relationships, and learn about the various resources available at the college. There were three main themes that were identified as a result of the interviews, (1) common challenges (i.e., being a first-generation student), (2) culture shock, and (3) financial issues. Some other common themes included:
- Lack of diversity at the university (47%)
- Financial and time management issues (88%)
- Feeling a lack of belonging (94%)
- Out of state issues (18%)
- Multicultural / biracial issues (18%)
Almost 41% of the participants indicated that the program provided them “with a sense of family and, community, which encouraged them to do better.” (p.8). A very small percentage of students expressed that they felt college was easy ( 6%).
Other common factors included
- Feeling overwhelmed as they transitioned to the college environment
- Concerns regarding campus climate
- Discrimination / perceived discrimination
One of the participants reported the following experience:
“My overall experiences in the mentoring program were very, very positive. It was great to establish relationships with like-minded people, people who had the same values, people who were often academically focused, people who were also involved on campus…it got to give me some positive role models to look up [to]…” (p.8)
Limitations / Recommendations:
- Study participants were the mentors. Would the results have been any different had the participants not been the mentors? Were they successful because they were mentors, or were they mentors because they were successful?
- Limited sample size of 15
- Sample focused exclusively on Latina/o students
- How might this research be applied to other populations (i.e., students with disabilities, other ethnic / racial groups)?
- How might a mentor program benefit low-income students?
- What were the mentors doing that was so effective?
Application to my own Action Research:
A couple of years ago, we created a program at the ASU Downtown campus in which staff, within Educational Outreach and Student Services, were each assigned a freshman floor at our residence hall, Taylor Place. The goal of the initiative was to develop a meaningful connection / relationship with each student as a way of fostering personal and academic growth, and helping students be successful by connecting them to critical academic support services and resources.
More recently, we have considered a more targeted approach with freshman who have challenges beyond just being first-time freshman. These challenges include being a first-generation, low-income, and/or student with a disability. We are also looking at students that enter the university with a low confidence interval (CI) score.
Over the past two semesters, we have seen some good results and have been able to build meaningful relationships with students that we believe will help students be successful and persist throughout their academic careers. Other than academic success (i.e., grades and whether or not students persist from one year to the next), we do not currently have a more effective way of measuring whether our efforts are impacting students. More specifically, we do not have an effective way to measure which factors are most effective (i.e., 1:1 meetings, encouraging participation in activities and events, connecting students to resources and other services, time and financial management, etc.).
An area which I feel we are lacking in our current approach, and in which I shall explore through action research, is the viability of a freshman mentorship program at ASU. Over the past two semesters, we have seen some success, students are persisting, yet concerns about fully engaging students in a meaningful way remain.
Every student that comes into higher education is unique. They each bring their own values, identities, academic foundation for learning, as well as their own limitations. Mentoring has been shown to effective in bridging the gap. By exploring the viability and effectiveness of a mentoring program at ASU, we will be able to determine not only the general impact, but more specifically, which factors most effectively impact the students we will be focusing on.
Salas, R., Aragon, A., Alandejani, J., & Timpson, W.M. (2014). Mentoring Experiences and Latina/o University Student Persistence. Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, 1-14.