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A Guide to the Research: Mentoring

Presents research literature and other sources of information about first generation college students, focusing on four-year undergraduate and graduate school experiences.

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* Burnham, Philip Sheridan. Lighting the Way: Mentorship and Retention of First Generation College Students. Thesis, Counselor Education, Counseling and Family Therapy, Central Kentucky State University, 2013.This study investigates whether having a higher education professional serving as a mentor increases the retention rate of first generation college students and the role institutional culture plays in a student's desire to remain at the university. The Principal Investigator (PI) hypothesized that the institution does send subtle messages of inferiority to first generation college students and having a higher education professional serving as an academic mentor does increase the retention of this population. Twelve students within Central Connecticut State University's Educational Opportunity Program took a twenty question online survey which measured students' perception of the campus environment, academic role models, and how the two impact their retention. Four of those twelve students elected to take part in an in-person, follow up interview, which allowed the PI to obtain more elaborative answers. The research shows that having an academic mentor does increase the retention rate of first generation college students and the university does send subtle messages of inferiority to first generation college students. Since most of the research up to this point deals with difficulties faced by first generation college students, the effectiveness of college programs which cater to this population, or what makes a TRIO program successful, this study contributes to the discussion by looking at how academic mentoring influences the perceptions of first generation college students, and how those perceptions affect their retention. Study limitations include the fact that this research focuses on one program on one campus, a small sample, a less diverse sample than desirable, and the tight timeframe. Future research may look at how the experience of Central Connecticut State University students compare to those students at another university and the academic experience of men.

Mentoring

* Anderson, Michelle D. University of Texas Program Demystifies Graduate School for Minority Students, Diverse Issues in Higher Education, vol. 25, issue 15 (September 4, 2008) p. 10.
Abstract: Intellectual Entrepreneurship: A Cross-Disciplinary Consortium is a University of Texas program that introduces diverse students to graduate work. Attracting a significant number of underrepresented minority and first-generation students, the program enables undergraduates to work closely with graduate student mentors and faculty supervisors to develop their own research experience. 
 
* Bulloch, Shawn. Peer tutoring and mentoring: A study of methodologies and strategies that impact academic achievement for African Americans in higher education. Fielding Graduate University, 2007, 100 pages.
"Academic and student affairs leaders long have acknowledged that much of students' learning takes place in curricular and extracurricular settings dominated by their peers" (Hunter, 2004, p.41). For several years, African Americans have faced adversity in higher education regarding academic and other issues. Student Support Services, a federally funded program, provides academic assistance to low-income, first-generation, and disabled students. This type of assistance would otherwise be almost unattainable due to status and class. Programs such as Student Support Services are designed to create a level field for academic mobility amongst African Americans and other minorities. Peer-tutoring, a major component of Student Support Service delivery to its participants, has positively impacted the academic state of the program's participants. This research examines the efficacy of peer-tutoring/mentoring on tutor mentors and tutees. Action research is the main method of analysis in this study which examines peer-mediated instruction in higher education. Interviews, observations, and focus group sessions were used to gather the needed data to address the research questions in the study. The study demonstrates that peer tutoring is fundamental in promoting academic mobility among African Americans. The study further recommends detailed approaches that should be components of successful tutorial regimens.

* Burnham, Philip Sheridan. Lighting the Way: Mentorship and Retention of First Generation College Students. Thesis, Counselor Education, Counseling and Family Therapy, Central Kentucky State University, 2013.This study investigates whether having a higher education professional serving as a mentor increases the retention rate of first generation college students and the role institutional culture plays in a student's desire to remain at the university. The Principal Investigator (PI) hypothesized that the institution does send subtle messages of inferiority to first generation college students and having a higher education professional serving as an academic mentor does increase the retention of this population. Twelve students within Central Connecticut State University's Educational Opportunity Program took a twenty question online survey which measured students' perception of the campus environment, academic role models, and how the two impact their retention. Four of those twelve students elected to take part in an in-person, follow up interview, which allowed the PI to obtain more elaborative answers. The research shows that having an academic mentor does increase the retention rate of first generation college students and the university does send subtle messages of inferiority to first generation college students. Since most of the research up to this point deals with difficulties faced by first generation college students, the effectiveness of college programs which cater to this population, or what makes a TRIO program successful, this study contributes to the discussion by looking at how academic mentoring influences the perceptions of first generation college students, and how those perceptions affect their retention. Study limitations include the fact that this research focuses on one program on one campus, a small sample, a less diverse sample than desirable, and the tight timeframe. Future research may look at how the experience of Central Connecticut State University students compare to those students at another university and the academic experience of men.

* Conrad, Sarah, Silvia Sara Canetto, David MacPhee and Samantha Farro. What Attracts High-Achieving Socioeconomically Disadvantaged Students to the Physical Sciences and Engineering? College Student Journal, vol. 43, issue 4 (Dec 2009), pp. 1359-1369.
Socioeconomically disadvantaged (SED) students are less likely to major in physical sciences or engineering. To guide recruitment and retention of a diversity of talent, this study examined what attracts high-achieving SED students to these fields. Participants were 50 undergraduates majoring in physical sciences or engineering enrolled in the McNair mentoring program. Ninety-two percent were first-generation in college and/or low-income; 56% were female, 40% Hispanic, and 36% White. This group of SED students mostly explained their attraction to physical sciences or engineering in terms of scientific curiosity and a passion for research. They also reported being excited about the possibility to use their science and engineering education for social purposes. Securing a good job emerged as another important motivator, particularly for male and ethnic minority respondents. These findings suggest common as well as unique reasons for majoring in physical sciences or engineering among a diversity of SED students. 
 
* Cracco, Ann L. Pieces to the puzzle. University of Northern Iowa, 2007, 181 pages.
Because low-income, first-generation, and disabled individuals have limited access to postsecondary education, Congress established TRIO, a series of programs designed to provide access to college for this targeted population. One initiative suggested to aid in retention and graduation for these TRIO students was mentoring. This study examined the perceived benefits of faculty mentoring for first-generation TRIO students to facilitate retention and graduation rates at a Midwestern Community College. Three faculty members and three TRIO students were interviewed to determine their perception of the benefits of faculty mentoring. The results were consistent with the literature that students who have access to TRIO programs and a mentoring relationship are more likely to succeed in college compared to students without this assistance. 
 
* Dennis, Jessica M., Jean S. Phinney and Lizette Chauteco, The Role of Motivation, Parental Support, and Peer Support in the Academic Success of Ethnic Minority First-Generation College Students, Journal of College Student Development, vol. 46, issue 3 (May-Jun 2005), pp. 223-236.
The role of personal motivational characteristics and environmental social supports in college outcomes was examined in a longitudinal study of 100 ethnic minority first-generation college students. Personal/career-related motivation to attend college in the fall was a positive predictor and lack of peer support was a negative predictor of college adjustment the following spring. Lack of peer support also predicted lower spring GPA.

* Farrell, Elizabeth F., Some Colleges Provide Success Coaches for Students, Chronicle of Higher Education, vol. 53, issue 46 (Jul 2007), p. A25.
The road to a college degree is often littered with potholes of self-doubt, and sometimes those are deep enough to discourage even the most ambitious students. If the transition from high school to college were easy, the average six-year graduation rate at four-year institutions in the United States would probably be higher than 63 percent. To improve those numbers, colleges and universities across the country have added an array of student-support services, including peer counselors, academic advisers, and tutors. Many institutions have summer programs that bring under-prepared students up to speed academically, and some have wellness centers that offer free massages before exams. Now, as an extension of these services, there is a new coach on campus. This year, Our Lady of the Lake University offered personal coaching services to all of its first-year and transfer students, most of whom are first-generation college students. The coaches motivate and counsel students, many of whom need more than positive reinforcement and time-management tips. Coaches also help some students navigate the public welfare system for sick relatives, or explain to their parents why they should go into debt to complete their degrees. Officials at Our Lady of the Lake hope such personalized coaching will inspire more students to stay enrolled. From the fall semester to the spring semester, 89 percent of freshmen returned to continue their studies, a five-percentage-point increase over the previous year. The rate was even higher, at 93 percent, for students who attended at least seven coaching sessions. In contrast, 69 percent of students who attended only one session came back for the spring semester. But the real test, say university officials, will come this fall. Typically, 38 percent of freshmen at Our Lady of the Lake do not return for their sophomore year, but university officials hope to decrease that rate to 25 percent.
 
* Flores, Ramon. Attributes and characteristics of the Mathematics, Engineering, Science, Achievement (MESA) high school program for first-generation Latino students. Pepperdine University, 2007.
This study used a web-based survey collected data from 28 first-generation Latino engineers who participated in the Mathematics, Engineering, Science, Achievement (MESA) program during their high school years. From the set of 28 respondents, 5 volunteered to participate in an optional telephone interview. The purpose of this study was to describe the critical attributes and characteristics of the MESA program that lead to success at both the high school and college levels for first-generation Latino students. Success at the high school level was operationally defined as successfully graduating with a high school diploma. Success at the college level was operationally defined here as college graduation with an engineering degree. Using a mixed-methods technique, the researcher attempted to secure consensus of opinion from a sample population of 28 first-generation Latino engineers. The mixed-methods technique was chosen since it allowed the researcher to draw on the strengths of quantitative and qualitative approaches. According to the findings, the typical respondent felt that mentoring was the attribute of the MESA program that most prepared him to graduate from high school. The respondents felt that the following MESA attributes most helped them transition into an undergraduate engineering program: Academic and University Advising; Enrichment Activities; Career Advising; Field Trips; Mentoring; Scholarship Incentive Awards; and Speakers. The respondents viewed study groups as the MESA attribute that best prepared them to graduate college with an engineering degree. This study was purposefully designed as a descriptive study. Future research is required to extend this work into an evaluative study. This would allow for the generalization of the critical attributes to the general student population serviced by the MESA program. 
 
* Giscombe, Charlotte L. First-generation, income-eligible peer mentor study. Western Michigan University, 2008, 188 pages.
This study was designed to determine how mentoring affects the peer mentor. Despite the proliferation of peer mentoring programs, little research has been conducted to consider how mentoring affects the peer mentor's attitudes, leadership ability, and academic accomplishments when engaging in a mentoring relationship. The focus of this study is on the at-risk peer mentors who are part of the federally funded Student Support Services (SSS) located on a midwestern university campus, and seeks to ascertain whether their grade point average, retention, graduation rates, self-confidence, self-esteem, self-worth, and leadership abilities are changed by serving in a mentoring relationship. Since these attitudes and skills have been linked with student success, a study that examines factors that impact these variables is of importance to administrators of SSS, other developmental programs, and the students themselves. A mixed method longitudinal design was used to analyze both quantitative and qualitative data. The data were collected throughout the 1999-2006 academic years. The data set was organized to allow comparisons among five groups of students, which included the peer mentor group. Using SPSS software, frequencies, means, and percentages were calculated on each of the factors. To complete the model, an analysis of variance (ANOVA) was performed. Qualitative data were gathered from structured interviews and a focus group reflecting on whether and to what degree the act of mentoring affected the mentors' attitude and leadership abilities. Results of this study showed that when the at-risk peer mentors were compared to the average student or students who are eligible for SSS but do not receive their services, the peer mentors' average graduation rate was higher at 78%. Average years-to-graduate rate of 4.48 years was lower, and their cumulative grade point average at 3.30 was higher than other comparative groups within the study. Qualitative data analysis revealed that mentors indicated positive changes in regards to leadership and attitudes more than 50% of the time. In summary, the research strongly indicates mentoring is a positive experience that does no harm, and the mentors develop character and have opportunities to help others. 
 
* Hamrick, Florence A. and Frances K. Stage. Community Activities, Educational Mentors, and College Predisposition Decisions of White, African American, and Hispanic Eighth Graders, 2000. 30 pp.
This study tested a causal model of student college predisposition that incorporated traditional measures of influences (parents' education, income, gender, parents' expectations, grades, school activities), as well as two additional influences (first-generation status and mentoring) identified in qualitative studies of pre-college through early college experiences of minority and low-income students. Specifically, the models examined the impact on explained variance in eighth-grade students' college predisposition decisions and sought to identify patterns among the selected variables for sub-groups of students. Data for the model was drawn from the National Education Longitudinal Study 1988; the sample consisted of 300 students randomly drawn from unweighted groups of White, Hispanic, and African American students. This study reinforced the contributions of mentoring and community involvement for all sub-groups of students and also highlighted the generally indirect nature of their influences on eighth-grade predisposition. For African American students, the circuitous route of effects ran from community involvement and educational mentoring to grades, to parental expectations, and lastly to predisposition. The study also reinforced the central role of parental expectations on students' early decisions regarding college. 
 
* Harrell, Pamela Esprívalo and William Scott Forney. Ready or Not, Here We Come: Retaining Hispanic and First-Generation Students in Postsecondary Education, Community College Journal of Research and Practice, vol. 27, issue 2 (February 2003), pp. 147-56. Available in the Education Library.
A review of research into the enrollment and retention of Hispanic students in higher education is provided. This review covers research into the high school academic preparation of Hispanic students, performance of Hispanic students on college entrance examinations, and family demographics that predict the retention and persistence of Hispanic students in higher education. It reveals significant career preparation changes that must be implemented if Hispanic students are to participate fully and equally in U.S. society. The review highlights the need for public schools to provide the resources to enable Hispanic students to compete with majority students and the need for enrollment of Hispanic students in more rigorous high school curricula. Furthermore, the review indicates that models and mentors are needed to help Hispanic students to navigate the college system. 
 
* Kazen, Hayley Deann. Hispanic students' perceptions of the effectiveness of learning communities: A case study of first-year university students. Texas A&M University, 2008, 167 pages.
This study focused on the perceptions students have about the effectiveness of learning communities, a focus of the First-Year Success initiative at Texas A&M International University. Because many of our students are Hispanic and/or first generation college students, the traditional lecture based college classrooms may not be effective. This study employed a case-study focusing on one section of a Freshman Seminar class that was part of a learning community. Data was gathered using interviews and journals. Students perceived learning communities to be helpful because it enabled them to make friends more easily and feel more connected to the University, two things that have been shown to increase retention. Students also believed that the Freshman Seminar class taught them valuable skills that enabled them to be more successful in college. However, students did not perceive that an integrated curriculum nor the peer mentoring program as particularly useful. In order to improve the First-Year Success program, these issues must be addressed. 
 
* Laden, Berta Vigil, Socializing and mentoring college students of color: the Puente Project as an exemplary celebratory socialization model, Peabody Journal of Education, vol. 74, issue 2 (1999), pp. 55-74.
Part of a special issue on the mentoring of underrepresented students in higher education. The writer examines the Puente Project, which is a good example of the celebratory socialization model. Established in 1981, the Puente Project is an initiative of the California community college that addresses the needs of first-generation Latino college students from a cultural context. It aims to build a bridge between the cultural context of the student and the academic environment of the Puente Program and the larger organization as a whole. The project endeavors to reform education with an integrative, innovative program of culturally relevant curriculum; community involvement in committed, culturally sensitive mentoring; and focused academic counseling. The writer discusses mentoring in the Puente Project, the longevity and success of the program, and the implications of the model for policy and practice.

* Luckett, Kathy and Thembi Luckett. The Development of Agency in First Generation Learners in Higher Education: A Social Realist AnalysisTeaching in Higher Education, vol. 14, issue 5 (Oct 2009), pp. 469-481.
This paper reports on the findings of a formative evaluation of the mentorship support programme run by the Maskh'iSizwe Centre of Excellence for recipients of its bursaries and interrogates the ontological assumptions held by dominant learning theories regarding relations between individual and society that neglect agency in the learning process. It is suggested that support programmes for undergraduate financially disadvantaged learners ensure that they first develop a sense of personal identity and social agency as a pre-condition for succeeding academically and developing a professional identity.
 
* Lund-Chaix, Alisha. Who benefits? A multilevel analysis of the impact of Oregon's volunteer mentor program for postsecondary access on scholarship applicants. Portland State University, 2008, 254 pages.
Despite four decades of national policy interventions, equal access to postsecondary education has not been achieved. Though gains have been made, students of color, low-income students, and first generation students are still excluded from postsecondary participation. Early intervention programs and privately funded scholarships are among the many public and private voluntary responses to this problem. Oregon's state-supported, school-based, volunteer mentoring program for equalizing postsecondary opportunities grew out of a long-standing partnership between a state administrative agency and statewide community foundation. Key program features reflect its origin: open eligibility for any student who wants to participate and reliance on a primary workforce of volunteer mentors. With goals to serve all students, program administrators and policy makers ask, who benefits? Evaluating the program's goal to teach students and families about scholarships and other postsecondary financing options, this study (1) compared scholarship applicants from high schools with the mentoring program to applicants from schools without; (2) examined individual and school-level barriers to postsecondary access as predictors of applicants' likelihood of receiving an award or choice of postsecondary institution; and (3) examined changes over time in the size and composition of schools' applicant and recipient pools before and after adopting the program. Findings indicate that scholarship applicants from program schools had lower family income, lower parent education, and lower indicators of academic achievement. Applicants from program schools were more likely to receive an award, though interpreting differences in their postsecondary choice is yet unclear. After schools adopted the program, the rate that their twelfth graders applied for and received scholarships increased over time. School applicant pools changed to reflect more applicants from traditionally excluded groups. The study concludes the program is having its intended effects. 
 
* Meetze, Tracy E. Factors contributing to first-generation college student success. University of South Carolina, 2006, 63 pages.
The purpose of this study is to examine factors that influence first-generation college student success in the postsecondary setting. Four research questions guided the study: (1) How do the characteristics of the family shape first-generation college student success in the postsecondary setting? (2) How do the personal characteristics of first-generation college students shape their success in the postsecondary setting? (3) How do the characteristics of peers and peer groups shape first-generation college student success in the postsecondary setting? (4) How do the characteristics of postsecondary institutions shape first-generation college student success in the postsecondary setting? Data sources for the study included surveys and interviews. Survey data were collected and analyzed statistically and interview data were collected, transcribed, and coded for patterns and themes. The interview data were then used to support findings from the survey data. There were several findings in the study. The influence of family is present for students throughout their lives. The most important factor of family influence is the effect the level of education of both the mother and father has on the success of first-generation college students. When first-generation college students enter primary school, specific patterns of the structure of schooling begin to influence their college success. Tracking is one of the structures established in elementary and secondary schools that influences this long-term success. Intertwined with the influence of tracking is the influence of peers. Tracking often forms peer groups and differentiates between those who will go to college and those who will not. Finally, at the college and university level, the most influential factor is the mentoring experience provided during the attainment of a Doctorate Degree. 
 
* Morales, Erik E. Legitimizing Hope: An Exploration of Effective Mentoring for Dominican American Male College Students. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice, vol. 11, issue 3 (2009-2010), pp. 385-406.
The purpose of this study was to explore the informal mentoring relationships of 15 male, Hispanic (Dominican American), first-generation college students, to determine how their mentoring experiences influenced their academic progress, standing, and retention. In-depth, semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted with 15 undergraduates from a comprehensive, public urban university. The mentors proved to be valuable social capital for these statistically at-risk students by providing them with insider academic information, legitimizing their academic and professional goals, and transforming their immigration experiences into academic inspiration. Suggestions for effective mentoring for immigrant/ethnic minority college students are presented.
 
* Moschetti, Roxanne and Cynthia Hudley, Measuring Social Capital among First-Generation and Non-First-Generation, Working-Class, White Males, Journal of College Admission, issue 198 (Win 2008), pp. 25-30.
Social capital is a useful theory for understanding the experiences of working class, first-generation college students. Social capital is the value of a relationship that provides support and assistance in a given social situation. According to social capital theory, networks of relationships can aid students in managing an otherwise unfamiliar environment (Attinasi, 1989) by providing students with valuable information, guidance and emotional support (Stanton-Salazar, 1997). This study examined the effects of socioeconomic and first-generation status on social capital among working-class, white, male students. The authors measured social capital by assessing the number and the quality of students' ties to institutional agents. Institutional agents are defined as individuals who have the ability to transmit or negotiate the transmission of opportunities and resources available at the institution (e.g. mentoring, counseling, tutoring). The authors included two types of students: (a) working-class males who are first-generation college students (e.g. Terenzini, Springer, Yaeger, Pascarella & Nora, 1996; Pascarella et al., 2004) and (b) working-class students whose parents attended college. This study expected first-generation status to be associated with working class, white males having less communication with institutional agents about their college experiences. Although not supported at a level of statistical significance, the data showed a trend supporting the hypothesis.
 
* Smith, Buffy, Accessing Social Capital through the Academic Mentoring Process, Equity & Excellence in Education, vol. 40, issue 1 (Jan 2007), pp. 36-46.
This article explores how mentors and mentees create and maintain social capital during the mentoring process. I employ a sociological conceptual framework and rigorous qualitative analytical techniques to examine how students of color and first-generation college students access social capital through mentoring relationships. The findings indicate that mentors and mentees enter into these relationships because they believe they can either provide or receive important academic knowledge and resources during the mentoring process

* Stuart, Reginald. The Next Best Thing to Family. Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, vol. 25, issue 16 (Sep 2008), pp. 14-15.
A generation ago, Latina sororities were in their infancy on American college campuses. Membership has ebbed and flowed since the founding of the first one, Lambda Theta Alpha, at Kean University in Union, New Jersey, in December 1975. Though still small in member numbers today, compared to more long-established mainstream fraternities and sororities, Latina sororities have emerged as an important ingredient for success for many Hispanic women in college. They find Latina sororities fill a personal void other campus groups don't. This article describes how Latina sororities are offering Hispanic students a support system

* Weggel, Anna. In Seattle, a Firsthand Lesson in College Access, The Education Digest, vol. 73, issue 8 (April 2008) pp. 28-31.
An article condensed from the December 14, 2007, issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education. A program conceived by a University of Washington freshman puts students in the role of admission counselors at local high schools. The Dream Project teaches undergraduates about higher-education policy at the same time that they assist disadvantaged high-school students in applying to college. The program pairs students at the university with first-generation and low-income students in six Seattle high schools. The college students assist the high-schoolers in preparing for the SAT, filling out college applications, and applying for scholarships. Unlike many similar programs, the Dream Project is paired with a course on its campus. Students study matters of social justice, educational opportunity, and socioeconomic mobility. The project hopes to send a message that the University of Washington is still attempting to recruit minority students nine years after the state's voters prohibited the use of racial preferences in public-university admissions.