Hospitality and tourism students’ perception of formal mentoring programs in higher education

Deale, C. S., Lee, S.-H., & Bae, J.-I.. (2020). Making mentoring meaningful: Hospitality and tourism students’ perceptions of mentoring. Journal of Teaching in Travel & Tourism, 20(1), 1–22.

Summarized by Ariel Ervin

Notes of Interest: 

  • Evidence shows that mentoring relationships are beneficial within the context of education
  • Little is know about the ways students studying hospitality and tourism education perceive mentoring
  • This current study examines how hospitality and tourism students interpret the current mentoring practices in order to gauge the interest in having a formal mentoring program, at a departmental or school level 
  • Researchers were also interested in creating effective ideas for formal mentoring programs in higher education, as well as to better understand the overall benefits of mentoring 
  • 250 college students, from a hospitality program in an American public university, filled out a survey about their views on mentoring in higher education
  • Results indicate that many of the students thought that having a formal mentoring program would be beneficial, especially if it was integrated into the academic program
  •  Findings also showed that first-generation college students are the most likely to benefit from a formal mentoring program since they were more likely to not have a mentor
  • Many students that participated in the study stated that they would like more help in establishing goals, finding a career path, networking, as well as gaining the appropriate skills and knowledge from their courses

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

Mentoring has received considerable attention in higher education and industry, but little is known about perceptions of mentoring within disciplines, including that of hospitality and tourism. This study investigated undergraduate students’ perceptions of mentoring to learn more about the factors that might need to be considered when implementing a formal discipline-related mentoring program. Differences in perceptions of mentoring were found between male and female students and first-generation and non-first-generation college students. Overall, students appeared to lack knowledge of mentoring. Implications for hospitality and tourism educators with regard to mentoring are provided.

Implications (Reprinted from Implications)

This study was undertaken at one university to ascertain the views of formal mentoring held by hospitality and tourism students enrolled at the school. The purpose of the research was to learn more about their views on formal mentoring before developing mentoring activities and programs further. The results of this study indicate that the students believed that they could benefit from formal mentoring. The mentoring model was explained by having a role model and through attaining academic knowledge, degree and career support, and emotional support from their mentor. Still, a wide variety of mentors was not used by these students; instead, they focused on having family members serve in that role. It is possible, as noted previously, that students viewed mentors and role models as synonymous and thus, the broader context of mentoring, including informal and formal processes, may need to be explained to students. Therefore, given the value that the students placed on role models, helping them to see role models as just one part of a broader, more professional, mentoring framework might be beneficial.

To aid the faculty members in the development of mentoring opportunities for their students, the study considered possible differences between different groups of students, including first-generation and non-first-generation students. First-generation students were less likely to have a mentor in their life than non-first-generation college students in this study, but they thought that a mentor could be very helpful. This finding concurred with previous research that shows that first-generation students can benefit greatly from formal mentoring (Abel, 2006; Arellano & Padilla, 1996; Chen & Carroll, 2005; DiMaria, 2011; Wang, 2012). If they did mention that they had mentors, their mentors tended to be informal mentors that were family members and they may not have knowledge regarding college or careers. Non-first-generation students may have developed more support from home where they had other family members who attended college. Perhaps faculty members and staff members could do more to share information about formal mentoring opportunities already available on campus to make sure that students that wish to be mentored are involved in mentoring programs and be sure to connect first-generation college students with these valuable resources.

With regard to potential benefits of mentoring, students stated that they would like to receive more support for setting goals and choosing a career path, networking, and knowledge and skills related to courses. Students’ involvement with faculty members in terms of mentoring activities could perhaps be helpful, for as earlier research indicates, positive interactions between students and faculty members inside and outside of the classroom can promote higher levels of engagement and learning (Umbach & Wawrzynski, 2004), and effective mentoring relationships could be valuable tools. However, this discussion about mentoring can lead to concern over yet another burden on faculty members in terms of time and energy (Supiano, 2018a), for they already have time-consuming commitments to a variety of responsibilities such as teaching, research, advising, and service. Therefore, implementing formal mentoring programs through careful planning would be helpful.


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