Undergraduate peer mentors serving underrepresented students at a predominantly white institution
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Higher education is facing national calls for increased graduation and retention rates (Good, Halpin, & Halpin, 2000; Obama, 2009). In an effort to answer these calls, administrators are using peer mentoring programs to provide social, personal, and academic support to first-year students (Crisp & Cruz, 2009; Jacobi, 1991). This study drew on the disciplines of business, medicine, and higher education to demonstrate the prevalence of mentoring (Crisp & Cruz, 2009; Buddeberg-Fischer & Herta, 2006; Scandura, 1992). Focusing on the area of higher education, the existing literature supports the positive effects of peer mentoring for mentees, but there is a dearth of information regarding the lived experiences of undergraduate peer mentors. As institutions continue to seek ways to support students from underrepresented populations through the use of peer mentor programs, it is critical for administrators to clearly understand both sides of the mentoring relationship in order to use it as an effective educational tool. Moreover, peer mentor programs also utilize the unique influence peers possess in order to create supportive environments for underrepresented students. The purpose of this qualitative study was to understand the lived experiences of undergraduate peer mentors who served underrepresented students at a predominantly white institution. Utilizing a phenomenological approach, this study adapted the psychosocial and vocational functions of mentoring in relation to the development of the mentor in order to understand how peer mentors experienced their role, interactions with mentees, and feelings of connectedness to the institution (Kram & Isabella, 1985). Additionally, Schlossberg's transition theory, specifically the coping resources of the 4S's (situation, self, support, and strategies) were utilized to understand how peer mentors experienced their transition from mentee to mentor (Goodman, Schlossberg, & Anderson, 2006, Seidman, 2006).