Unique benefits of mentoring for international students

Shakla, T. R. (2016). The Impact of Mentorship on Leadership Development Outcomes of International Students. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/dhe0000016

Summarized Harry Bayly

Notes of interest:

  • This quantitative study compared the undergraduate experiences of 6,076 college students (3,038 international and 3,038 domestic).
  • International students scored lower on a [U.S.-developed] measure of perceived leadership development than their domestic peers.
  • Among international students, having a mentor was associated with higher scores.

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

The purpose of this quantitative study of 6,076 undergraduates in the United States (3,038 international and 3,038 domestic) was to examine leadership development outcomes for international students in the United States and the potential role of mentorship in this process. Data for this study were derived from the 2009 Multi-Institutional Study of Leadership. Two primary research questions guided this study: (a) Do differences in socially responsible leadership outcomes exist between domestic and international students? (b) How does mentorship contribute to socially responsible leadership development for international undergraduate students? Results of this study suggest a differential effect in which international students were not experiencing the same level of socially responsible leadership development outcomes relative to domestic peers. However, this difference appeared to be mediated with the presence of mentorship focused around personal development. As this type of mentorship increased for international students, they performed nearer and nearer to domestic students in terms of socially responsible leadership development.

Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

In the current study, although we do not know the exact perspectives or positionalities of these significant mentors, students were reflecting on their most significant mentor at their college or university for the mentorship scales. We can conclude, then, that these mentors are embedded in American contexts. Thus, one lens to consider findings in this study is that of how these mentors may be able to offer their mentees knowledge and information about navigating American leadership spaces. As connected to the findings in the current study, it may be that mentorship plays an important role for international students’ leadership capacity, because it imparts knowledge and behaviors that better align with an institutionalist perspective and a perhaps American view of leadership. Thus, perhaps socially responsible leadership capacity is improved by mentorship relationships because the presence of a personal mentor in fact aids the acculturation process of international students in performing leadership in an American context. This possibility can be considered from a variety of perspectives. For example, the choice of many international students to study within the United States may indicate their motivations to learn and understand American contexts of learning. Through this frame, the ability to acculturate and engage in a manner of deep contextual learning of a particular enactment of American leadership can be a desired positive outcome for some international students. On the other hand, there is also a need for American higher education to consider whether the goal of recruiting international students is to engage in a process of one-sided acculturation or perhaps instead engage in a two-directional process of intercultural exchanges. From this perspective, if mentorship is purely beneficial to leadership development as a mechanism of acculturation, perhaps there are other important aspects of developing as a leader that are yet untapped for international students in the United States.

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