Latino/as’ perception of peer: Mentors as social capital

Moschetti, R. V., Plunkett, S. W., Efrat, R., & Yomtov, D. (2018). Peer mentoring as social capital for Latina/o college students at a Hispanic-serving institution. Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, 17(4), 375–392.

Summarized by Ariel Ervin

Notes of Interest: Moschetti, Plunkett, Efrat, and Yomtov (2018) administered a mentoring program targeted at Latino/a university students through a Hispanic-Serving Institution. Data was collected over the course of three years from primarily first-year or first-generation college students who either had a mentor, or didn’t have one. Results from this mixed methods design suggested that mentees perceived their mentors to be a form of social capital (i.e., academic and emotional support). Post-tests also indicated that students with mentors feel more tied to their universities and are better integrated into their universities than students who don’t have mentors.


Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

An evaluation was conducted on a university peer mentoring program for Latina/o college students (mostly freshmen and first generation) at a Hispanic-Serving Institution. Data were collected across 3 years from 458 Latina/o students with mentors and 86 Latina/o students without mentors (Year 3). Quantitative and qualitative data indicated mentees viewed peer mentors as social capital (e.g., emotional and academic support). Mentees reported increased university integration and connection at posttest, significantly greater than non-mentored students.


Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

As mentioned previously, the Latina/o mentees perceived their peer mentors as social capital (i.e., relationship with another person that provides support and assistance, Stanton-Salazar, 2001). Specifically, the quantitative and qualitative data showed that the mentors were perceived as providing helpful information about the campus and major, academic support, encouragement, and emotional support. The mentors were perceived as caring, respectful, available, and responsive, which is consistent with how peer mentors have been described in the literature (Leidenfrost et al., 2011). Social capital may be especially helpful to first-generation Latino college students as they learn to navigate a new environment, such as the university (Attinasi, 1989Rios-Aguilar & Del-Amen, 2012). As one first-generation Latino mentee stated, “They (peer mentors) allowed us to become familiar with our new lives at the university and make us a better student.” The qualitative comments suggested the mentees benefitted from the one-on-one and group interactions with the peer mentors (e.g., “I felt as if she was another friend I could count on for whenever I needed her”) and had increased opportunities to be involved in campus activities (e.g., “The peer mentors were helpful when asking about resources and events around campus”). The peer mentors also helped introduce the mentees to others on campus, which can increase university integration. As a Latino mentee stated, “They (peer mentors) introduced us to university faculty and staff. Also told us we should network and get involved.” This perception of available social capital may explain (at least partially) why the mentees had increased connection to and integration in the university at the end of the semester, even more so than students without peer mentors. This finding is consistent with research that shows that mentors can enhance social and academic integration (Crisp & Cruz, 2009), ultimately increasing student success and persistence (Astin, 1996Crisp, 2010Hughes & Fahy, 2009).

Although most Latina/o mentees stated the peer mentors and/or program was good in its current form, some mentees provided valuable feedback for the program coordinators or future mentoring programs. In general, the mentees who made suggestions were interested in having more interactions with the peer mentors in class and outside of class. Also, some mentees stated they would like to have mentors in other classes, or have the current mentors stay with them in subsequent semesters. Thus, the relationship and/or interactions with the peer mentors appeared to be valued by the Latina/o mentees. Program coordinators, faculty teaching the courses with the peer mentors, and the peer mentors could brainstorm ways to increase interactions through more in-class activities or more mentor-coordinated group activities outside of class (e.g., attending university events together). Another recommendation by some mentees was that the peer mentors should be more knowledgeable and give better advice. One recommendation for future programs would be for the peer mentor program to coordinate with the academic advisors in the departments to provide training or reading materials for the mentors. And finally, a few mentees suggested that faculty or mentors should provide more clear expectations regarding the roles of the peer mentors. The peer mentor program coordinator could provide an outline of peer mentor duties and expectations for students that could be put on course syllabi and/or verbally explained to the students.


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