University of Houston: A new hub of youth mentoring research

Professor Samuel McQuillin - The Chronicles of Evidence-Based Mentoring

Meet Assistant Professor Samuel McQuillin

I am a school psychologist by training, and as such, my primary research interest surrounds school-based interventions and supports that promote the emotional, behavioral, and academic wellness of youth. Currently I am refining and evaluating a brief school-based mentoring program for middle-school students. The goal of this work is to develop a manualized mentoring curriculum that school-based mentors can use within the constraints of the school system. With the average school-based mentoring relationship lasting around 5 months, it would be helpful to have evidence-based practices that accommodate even the briefest of these relationships. Towards this end, I have adapted several existing evidence-based practices into a curriculum that can be completed within a single school semester. This curriculum has three primary goals:

  • 1) equip middle-school protégés with necessary academic enabling skills (i.e., study skills, agenda keeping, planning, organization),
  • 2) motivate protégés to set and pursue specific and measureable school-related goals, and
  • 3) support protégés as they pursue these goals in the context of a mentoring relationship.

Currently, the program uses practices adapted from Motivational Interviewing and several existing academic interventions for middle-school students. The last randomized evaluation (currently under review for publication) of this program found significant effects on student’s life satisfaction and math grades, and decreases in school-based behavioral infractions after completing 8 sessions of the curriculum. I am currently revising and retesting the curriculum in a randomized evaluation in hopes of seeing more robust effects on students’ grades. After replication and further refinement I anticipate making the curriculum freely available.

Mentoring at the University of Houston

The University of Houston has a wealth of resources for conducting high-impact school-based mentoring (SBM) research, including access to over 24 school districts within 30 miles of the University, two of which are among the largest public school districts in the nation. Houston is also the most ethnically diverse city in the nation, and the University of Houston is the second most diverse public research university. Because most of my research is conducted in urban public schools using college-aged mentors, Houston is a superb location to continue my program of research.

My mentoring research is also complemented by other faculty at the University of Houston who share similar interests. Within the past two years our group of researchers has formed a network of mentoring-related research projects. Drs. Bradley H. Smith and F. Richard Olenchak are two other primary figures in this network who have been involved in expanding the reach of our research and service.

Dr. Rick Olenchak is the Interim Associate Provost of Faculty Development and Faculty Affairs, professor of Educational Psychology, and the director of the Urban Talent Research Institute. Dr. Olenchak is interested in adapting evidence-based practices for mentoring junior faculty and the effects of faculty mentoring on university productivity and civic engagement.

Dr. Bradley H. Smith is interested in studying the effects of mentoring on mentor outcomes, including, but not limited to, civic engagement, empathy, and career mindedness. Dr. Smith is also interested in mentoring as a method of service learning to enhance undergraduate education and contribute to meaningful and sustainable community service.

Postdoctoral Position Available

As of October 2013, Dr. Smith is seeking a postdoc to help expand this research. He is particularly interested in candidates with experience in school-based mentoring, motivational interviewing, yoga, and afterschool and summer programs. The posting for this position is linked here: