But only 25% of college graduates report having a helpful college mentor, according to the 2018 Strada-Gallup alumni survey. And among the students who reported having a mentor, 72% of white students identified their mentor as a professor, compared with 61% of first-generation students and just 47% of minority students.
Colleges can help students, particularly first-generation and minority students, develop more meaningful faculty mentor relationships, argues Michael Nietzel, president emeritus of Missouri State University, in Forbes. He outlines a few steps college administrators can take now to connect more students to faculty mentors.
1: Hire and retain diverse faculty members
Research has found that students tend to look for mentors whose backgrounds resemble their own. But for first-generation and minority students, finding a mentor who resembles them can be a challenge.
Colleges can help first-gen and minority students find mentors by hiring and retaining more diverse faculty, recommends Nietzel. Institutions that invest in diverse faculty will be better positioned to support the growing number of minority and first-gen students, he adds.
2: Incorporate experiential learning opportunities in the curriculum
Students who take on an internship, senior thesis, or research assistantship spend more time on academics, interact more often and more meaningfully with faculty, and receive more feedback on their work, writes Nietzel. Make these experiences a graduation requirement to ensure your students take the opportunity, he recommends.
3: Incentivize faculty to invest in student success
Faculty mentors can’t succeed if they don’t understand the goal or value of mentoring at your institution. Give faculty mentors clear direction and adequate funding for both undergraduate research and ongoing mentor training, recommend the faculty who lead the Seminar on Excellence in Mentoring Undergraduate Research at Elon University.
Once faculty understand the goal of mentoring at your college, reward those who push their students to excel through caring, sustained mentorship, recommends Nietzel. And ensure full-time faculty who focus on undergraduate teaching have a clear path to tenure that is tied to student success, he adds (Nietzel, Forbes, 12/4).