Date of Award

Fall 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Industrial Engineering

First Advisor

Sara A. McComb

Committee Member 1

Steven Landry

Committee Member 2

Robin Adams


In order to begin to understand how to design programs that promote community development and produce beneficial outcomes for community members, we must first define the elements and functions of such a community. In this thesis, I define social community as an environment where like-minded individuals engage indynamic, multidirectional interactions that facilitate social support . Using a human-integrated systems approach, I propose a social community model for STEM minority mentoring programs to understand how a community's design plays a role in the learning and enrichment of its members. The social community model is comprised of three main components: program elements, social support, and participant outcomes. Social community elements may produce multiple beneficial participant outcomes, yet it is possible that different demographic groups within a social community may experience varying levels of the benefits associated with participant outcomes. Therefore, I test how dimensions of the proposed model vary across different groups within a program by examining the social community elements of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Merit Scholars Workshop Program. Study findings indicate that non-Whites experienced less connectedness than Whites, male participants tended to become more resilient after leaving the program, and graduate/non-students and current participants rated higher in engaging in communities of practice. Using these insights, I provide recommendations for designing programs that have the most opportunities for enhanced member experiences. For example, programs should be designed to nurture relationships between current and past program participants possibly through creating mentoring networks or blogs. Also, programs should consider implementing mechanisms that assist participants with finding someone to fulfill their primary support person role as well as activities that encourage participation from participants' spouses/significant others, friends, advisors, and professors.