An exploratory study of diversified mentoring relationships among graduate students and their advisors in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields

Krystin R Bodden, Purdue University


Minorities and women continue to be underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. In graduate education, factors such as racism, prejudice, discrimination, sexism, stereotypes, tokenism, and a lack of role models can all plague students and contribute to uncompleted degrees and non-entrance into STEM fields. One of the tools being used to combat these barriers is effective mentoring. Graduate students and their advisors generally have close working relationships and advisors serve in a tremendously important role in the development of the graduate student, so an effective mentoring relationship is vital. The purpose of this study was to explore and describe graduate student STEM majors' perceptions of mentoring provided by their academic advisors in diversified and homogenous mentoring relationships. The Diversified Mentorship Theory was utilized as the theoretical framework, and existing measures were adapted and used to measure the variables of psychosocial mentoring functions, instrumental mentoring functions, and mentoring relationship quality. Using a mixed-methods study approach, graduate students in STEM fields at Purdue University (N= 1,783) were surveyed regarding the mentoring relationship they have with their advisors. An emphasis was placed on factors of diversity, including the gender and racial makeup of the relationship, as well as the instrumental and psychosocial mentoring support provided and the overall quality of the mentoring relationship. Findings revealed that participants considered their advisor to be a mentor to a moderate extent, and that advisors provided both psychosocial and instrumental mentoring support to a moderate extent. One-way between subjects ANOVA tests were conducted to compare the effect of gender and race on psychosocial functions, instrumental functions, and relationship quality. Gender had a statistically significant effect on psychosocial mentoring functions. Qualitative data revealed that while some advisors provided both instrumental and psychosocial mentoring support, it was more common that only one of the support functions were provided. Additionally, Pearson's correlations revealed significant relationships among the variables of gender, race, psychosocial functions, instrumental functions, and relationship quality. The study's conclusions are discussed at length in the final chapter. Implications for practice and theory, along with directions for future research are also provided.




Esters, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Educational leadership|Womens studies|Agricultural education|Ethnic studies|Higher education

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