Study explores underrepresented students’ connections with college-based mentors
Monjaras-Gaytan, L. Y., Sánchez, B., Salusky, I., & Schwartz, S. E. O. (2021). Historically underrepresented college students and institutional natural mentors: An ecological analysis of the development of these relationships at predominantly White institutions. Journal of Community Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1002/jcop.22682
Summarized by Ariel Ervin
Notes of Interest:
- Although college is an opportunity for the upward mobility of underrepresented youths, many incoming students still experience many barriers that can affect their ability to obtain their college degrees.
- This is especially true for college students that attend predominately White institutions.
- Natural mentoring relationships with institute agents (e.g. faculty members, staff, and administrators) might be a helpful resource to underrepresented college students.
- This study examined what factors correlate with natural institutional mentorships for underrepresented college students by using an ecological approach.
- Having an off-campus mentor, being older, having a positive help-seeking attitude towards adults, having a high-quality relationship with your instructor, and having a strong sense of belonging on campus are correlated with having an institutional mentor.
- Given the limited mentoring research on underrepresented college students, there are many directions scholars can take.
- For example, future studies need to assess what factors predict the likelihood of underrepresented college students developing relationships with institutional mentors over time.
- Another possible direction is to assess how institutional mentorships shift over time and what variables contribute to a larger natural mentoring social network.
Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)
Despite studies examining outcomes associated with having a natural mentoring relationship with an institutional agent in a higher education setting, few studies have investigated the formation of these relationships among historically underrepresented college students. Institutional agents refer to any instructor, staff, or administrator on the college campus. This cross-sectional study used an ecological approach to explore the factors associated with natural mentoring relationships between historically underrepresented college students and institutional agents. Participants were 521 college students (75% female, Mage = 20.27) across two predominantly White institutions. Multiple logistic regression demonstrated that older age, more positive help-seeking attitudes toward adults, stronger instructor relationships, having an off-campus mentor, and a higher sense of belonging on campus were associated with having an institutional natural mentor. Findings from this study contribute to the growing area of research on mentoring relationships of historically underrepresented college students. Implications are discussed.
Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)
The current study is one of the first to take an ecological approach to examine factors associated with having institutional natural mentoring relationships among historically underrepresented college students (i.e., first-generation, low-income, and/or students of color). Guided by the bioecological model (Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 2007), the results show that individual, proximal processes, and contextual factors, specifically age, help-seeking attitudes toward adults, quality of instructor relationships, having an off-campus mentor, and sense of belonging, are associated with developing institutional natural mentoring relationships. These findings enhance our understanding of potential factors in the formation of mentoring relationships between historically underrepresented college students and institutional agents and have implications for future research.
Based on the bioecological model (Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 2007), study findings indicated that individual-level factors were associated with students forming mentoring relationships with institutional agents. Having positive help-seeking attitudes toward adults was associated with having an institutional natural mentor. Students who have positive help-seeking attitudes toward adults may be more open to forming a mentoring relationship with institutional agents and may understand that institutional agents could provide them multiple types of support. Given the cross-sectional design of the study, however, it is possible that students who have formed an institutional natural mentoring relationship develop more positive help-seeking attitudes toward adults.
Conversely, avoidant help-seeking behaviors were not significantly associated with the presence of having an on-campus mentor. These findings are similar to a recent study of historically underrepresented college students that found that help-seeking avoidance was not significantly associated with positive instructor relationships but help seeking attitudes was (Parnes, Kanchewa, et al., 2020). The avoidant help-seeking behavior items specifically focused on academic help seeking, whereas the help-seeking attitudes measure focused on general help seeking from experienced adults. Being willing to seek help for only academic-related concerns may not be enough to develop mentoring relationships. Perhaps students who are willing to seek help from adults, in general, are more likely to develop mentoring relationships. For example, students may develop deeper relationships with institutional agents when bringing up concerns about their personal lives, but not necessarily when asking questions regarding a homework assignment.
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