Mentoring and Mental Models: Outreach to First-Generation, Low-Income Students
AuthorSmith, Matthew Jacob
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This qualitative single-case study examined mental models of mentoring held by both program initiators and mentors associated with a specific educational outreach initiative, the Dean's Future Scholars (DFS) program. DFS students were first-generation and low-income (FGLI). Mentoring was the primary service provided to precollege DFS students, and other services included summer academic programs, tutoring, college knowledge, courses for college credit, and internship placement. In-depth interviews were conducted with three program initiators, and nine program mentors. This study examined the development and implementation of the mentoring aspect of the program, from its creation in the year 2000, through the retirement in 2012 of the second DFS program director. This study focused on mental models of both initiators and mentors to inform mentoring practices of outreach programs for FGLI students. Social capital was selected as the theoretical framework, and a constructivist grounded theory approach was utilized for data coding and analysis. Three major themes were constructed from the participant interviews. From the initiators, the key theme of "Trusting the people" was developed. Through the mentor interviews, both "DFS changed my life", and "I want to help others" were key themes built from the data. Two key findings were gleaned from the interview data of both initiators and mentors: (a) commitment to a shared vision was central to the development of DFS; and (b) the shared vision was realized through practices that built social capital for DFS students.