skip to main content

This content will become publicly available on April 4, 2024

Title: Give and gain: Black engineering students as near‐peer mentors
Abstract Background

Engineering‐oriented bridge programs and camps are popular strategies for broadening participation. The students who often serve as counselors and mentors in these programs are integral to their success.


Predicated on the belief that mentoring contributes to positive outcomes for the mentors themselves, we sought to understand how undergraduate student mentors approached and experienced their work with a 6‐day overnight, NSF‐sponsored youth engineering camp (YEC). This study was guided by the question: How did YEC camp counselors approach and experience their roles as mentors?


We conducted an exploratory qualitative study of four Black undergraduate engineering students' experiences with and approaches to near‐peer mentorship in the YEC program. Data consisted of transcripts from two post‐program interviews and one written reflection from each participant. We analyzed data through abductive coding and the funds of knowledge framework.


Through subsequent interpretation of code categories, we found YEC mentors: (1) engaged in altruistic motivations as YEC mentors, (2) leveraged previous experiences to guide their approaches to mentorship, and (3) engaged in self‐directed learning and development.


This study highlights the knowledge and strategies that YEC mentors drew upon in their roles, and how they sought and achieved various personal, academic, and professional benefits. Insights from this study illustrate how near‐peer mentors can support their and others' engineering aspirations.

more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Engineering Education
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 365-381
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. This Complete Evidence-Based Paper presents research about a layered peer mentorship program for undergraduate engineering students at a public urban research university and ways that students have made meaning from their mentorship experiences. This mentorship program began in Fall 2019 and has grown to include the following layers: (a) first-year students who receive mentorship, (b) sophomore- and junior-level students who serve as mentors (all of whom received mentorship during their first year), (c) junior- and senior-level students who serve as lead mentors who design the program for that academic year (including content, group meetings, service projects, meeting schedules, etc.), (d) a graduate student who mentors and supervises the lead mentors, and (e) a faculty member who oversees the overall program, provides general guidance, and advises all the students. We will describe ways in which the participating students have made meaning of their experience in the program, highlighting three key areas: (1) the web of relationships formed, which cohere into a community; (2) students’ transitions from receiving mentorship as first-year students to mentoring others in their sophomore and junior years; and (3) the feedback and iteration process by which the program has continuously developed, which forefronts student voice and agency. The paper will provide specific examples in each of the three key areas described, with a special focus on students’ own descriptions of the meaning they have made through their participation in the mentorship program. Recommendations will also be shared for those interested in implementing similar programs on their campuses. 
    more » « less
  2. This paper discusses feasible means of integrating mentorship programs into engineering and engineering technology curricula. The two main motivations for investigating the development of such programs are to improve retention rates and to augment the efforts toward increasing the enrollment of minority students. In fact, it can be argued that a mentorship program can also indirectly assist in the achievement of critical student outcomes for accreditation. The model of mentorship presented in this paper involves a vertical integration of cohorts through a series of project-based learning (PBL) courses. Furthermore, this attempt is enhanced by the introduction of incentives that encourage student involvement in undergraduate research as well as on-campus engineering organizations. The specific focus of the mentorship is on student-student relationships in addition to the conventional faculty-student relationships. These relationships allow students to learn from each other since they are able to strongly relate to each other’s experiences among their peer group. The mentoring model proposed in this paper formulates a learning community that allows the student to form a support group and a mechanism for preventive intervention, as discussed in other studies on mentoring programs. Such student engagement is commonly acknowledged to significantly benefit the students as well as the student mentors involved in the program. Data from an initial student survey that measures the efficacy of the proposed mentorship program is included in this paper and these data are discussed in detail. A 1-5 Likert scale is used for quantitative analysis of the data in order to evaluate the self-efficacy of the program. The group size of the mentorship cohort has been limited to a maximum of thirty students at this stage. Preliminary analysis of the data indicates that the participating students have a strongly positive opinion of the program. 
    more » « less
  3. null (Ed.)
    The National Science Foundation (NSF) Emerging Frontiers and Innovation (EFRI) Research Experience and Mentoring (REM) program nationally supports hands-on research and ongoing mentorship in STEM fields at various universities and colleges. The NSF EFRI-REM Mentoring Catalyst initiative was designed to build and train these robust, interactive research mentoring communities that are composed of faculty, postdoctoral associates and graduate student mentors, to broaden participation of underrepresented groups in STEM research who are funded through NSF EFRI-REM. This work-in-progress paper describes the first five years of this initiative, where interactive training programs were implemented from multiple frameworks of effective mentoring. Principal investigators, postdoctoral associates and graduate students are often expected to develop and establish mentoring plans without any formal training in how to be effective mentors. Since the start of this initiative, over 300 faculty, postdoctoral associates and graduate students have been trained on promising practices, strategies, and tools to enhance their research mentoring experiences. In addition to formal mentor training, opportunities to foster a community of practice with current mentors and past mentor training participants (sage mentors) were provided. During these interactions, promising mentoring practices were shared to benefit the mentors and the different mentoring populations that the EFRI-REMs serve. The community of practice connected a diverse group of institutions and faculty to help the EFRI-REM community in its goal of broadening participation across a range of STEM disciplines. Those institutions are then able to discuss, distill and disseminate best practices around the mentoring of participants through targeted mentored training beyond the EFRI-REM at their home institutions. Not only does the EFRI-REM Catalyst initiative focus on broadening participation via strategic training of research mentors, it also empowers mentees, including undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral associates, in their research experiences through an entering research undergraduate course and formal mentoring training workshops. Future expansion to other academic units (e.g., colleges, universities) builds on the research collaborations and the initiatives developed and presented in this work-in-progress paper. A long-term goal is to provide insights via collaborative meetings (e.g., webinars, presentations) for STEM and related faculty who are assembling an infrastructure (e.g., proposals for the ERFI-REM program) across a range of research structures. In summary, this work-in-progress paper provides a description of the design and implementation of this initiative, preliminary findings, expanding interactions to other NSF supported Engineering Research Centers, and the future directions of the EFRI-REM Mentoring Catalyst initiative. 
    more » « less
  4. The NSF S-STEM funded SPIRIT: Scholarship Program Initiative via Recruitment, Innovation, and Transformation program at Western Carolina University creates a new approach to the recruitment, retention, education, and placement of academically talented and financially needy engineering and engineering technology students. Twenty-seven new and continuing students were recruited into interdisciplinary cohorts that are being nurtured and developed in a community characterized by extensive peer and faculty mentoring, vertically integrated Project Based Learning (PBL), and undergraduate research experiences. The SPIRIT Scholar program attracted a diverse group of Engineering and Engineering Technology students, thus increasing the percentage of female and minority student participation as compared to the host department program demographics. Over the last academic year, fifty-four undergraduate research projects/activities were conducted by the twenty-seven scholars under the direction of twelve faculty fellows. Additionally, peer-to-peer mentorship and student leadership were developed through the program’s vertically integrated PBL model, which incorporated four courses and seven small-group design projects. Academic and professional support for the student scholars were administered through collaborations with several offices at the host institution, including an industry-engaged product development center. The program participants reported strong benefits from engaging in the program activities during the first year. Specifically, this paper presents results from the program activities, including: cohort recruitment and demographics; support services; undergraduate research; vertically integrated PBL activities; and the external review of the program. Similar programs may benefit from the findings and the external review report, which contained several accolades as well as suggestions for potential continuous improvement. 
    more » « less
  5. As part of an NSF IUSE/PFE:RED grant, the Clemson University Glenn Department of Civil Engineering instituted a peer mentoring program, called CE-MENT to attract and support students through a key transition point in the curriculum between general engineering and entry into the major. The program name has a dual meaning, as cement is defined as a binding agent or something serving to unite firmly. As freshmen, underrepresented minorities and females are supported by the Programs for Educational Enrichment and Retention (PEER) and Women in Science and Engineering (WISE). However, these programs do not carry forward as students leave the common first year in General Engineering and move into their respective majors. Through the involvement of junior and senior engineering students as peer mentors for incoming sophomore students in the engineering department, the mentoring program provides valuable one-on-one guidance and contributes positively to the engineering community. The peer mentoring program was formulated to foster interaction role modeling and interdependencies among students. Studies show that such interactions and interdependencies foster students' positive perceptions of their future selves in the profession. The peer mentoring program provides the opportunity to create motivational preferences for collaboration, and to foster personal motivation for academic achievement. Specifically, the program sought to determine: the change in students' attitudes toward peer mentoring activities during their years of engineering study (from mentee to mentor); how participating in peer mentoring affects students' satisfaction with program experiences (i.e., transition, belonging, and academic success); and their intent to remain in the program. 
    more » « less