Mentoring Focus 3: Near-peer Mentoring

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Near-peer mentoring lets undergraduates work with students who are generally closer to their age than their faculty mentors. These near-peer mentors might include upperclassmen, graduate students and post-docs. The different manifestations of this type of mentoring helps illustrate the diversity of the mentoring interventions that the BUILD sites are developing.


Prompt: How do you incorporate near-peer mentoring into your BUILD programs, and what differentiates this type of mentoring from a traditional faculty mentorship?


CSULB BUILD: For students from underrepresented populations, feeling that they are valued and fit in can be hard to develop, especially in the sciences. However, this feeling of belonging can be a critical factor in the success of a student and the likelihood of pursuing a graduate-level degree. Research suggests that one way to nurture a sense of fitting in is through near-peer mentoring, which attempts to foster students’ sense of belonging to the larger school community by providing guidance from fellow students who are one or two steps ahead of them along the educational path. Having guides who are relatively close in age that have “been there and done that” helps newer students realize that they can belong in a research career. This is why at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) BUILD, we have made Graduate Mentors (GMs) an integral part of our program. CSULB BUILD GMs are just as diverse as the BUILD trainees, which gives trainees role models who are much like them. In addition, they are graduate students in programs that are comparable to those that BUILD trainees are being groomed for. Their previous experience as undergraduate students and as current graduate students, as well as their own life experiences overcoming similar disadvantages as trainees, has shown to be very helpful in the success of our BUILD trainees.



PSU BUILD EXITO: In addition to having a faculty career mentor and a primary research mentor, EXITO Scholars also have peer mentors. Peer mentors facilitate social integration for Scholars by helping students get connected on campus, finding relevant cultural activities and groups, and helping them navigate challenging systems such as university housing and financial aid. This near-peer approach also provides Scholars with someone who shares a similar background but has already navigated a pathway to success and can support them in the process.


UMBC STEM BUILD: At STEM BUILD, near-peer mentors’ roles are integral to the undergraduate students’ supervised summer research internships. The BUILD a Bridge to STEM Summer Internships allow novice undergraduates, who are typically community college students, to develop their investigatory skills and interests through short-term research projects as part of a BUILD Group Research experience. These projects, which are identified and supervised by faculty or industry researchers, are guided daily by staff and peer mentors to ensure positive and productive internships that are beneficial to both the interns and busy researchers.


UTEP BUILDing SCHOLARS: Students participate in the peer mentoring program in their first years as mentees to develop strategies for improving their academic and research performance under the guidance of more senior BUILD students. In their sophomore year, they can then participate in peer mentoring training courses to enhance their strategic planning, emotional intelligence and leadership skills, and subsequently mentor incoming BUILD scholars.


MSU ASCEND: The mentoring component of ASCEND at Morgan State University was designed to support the program's entrepreneurial mindset. In the ASCEND program, undergraduate students work in groups to conceive of, conduct, and disseminate the results of their own research project on a topic they select. In this entrepreneurship model, the undergraduate students are mentored by a faculty lead mentor and a graduate (or advanced undergraduate) student near-peer mentor (one of each per student group). Near-peer mentors regularly meet with the student groups (while also regularly engaging with each other, program leadership, and lead mentors) to guide, advocate for and support any required problem solving of project issues. Near-peer mentors are integral to successful communication between the students and the lead mentors to facilitate completion of their research projects.

The Diversity Program Consortium Coordination and Evaluation Center at UCLA is supported by Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health / National Institutes of General Medical Sciences under award number U54GM119024.