Peer mentorship can be a key tool to helping students excel in post secondary education — including students who are historically underrepresented in higher education, according to a paper published in the journal of Political Science education.
Here, we take a look at the top ways mentorship can help historically disadvantaged students.
Peer mentorship can help students find & connect with formal support
Students from historically underrepresented groups often do not have the built-in network that students from more privileged backgrounds may have. For example, family members who previously excelled in post-secondary institutions or friends in university or professional positions who can act as unofficial mentors.
Mentors can also help students navigate difficult situations they may face throughout their studies.
“Underrepresented students frequently face microaggressions in their programs (Ramirez 2014) and many of these come from advanced students failing to be approachable peer leaders, the authors write. “Academia is a shared experience that affords the opportunity to build networks that can last a lifetime and a peer leader can aid in building those networks.”
Peer mentorship can help with soft skills
While many of the post secondary expectations are clearly outlined – course requirements, for example – many of the soft skills needed to exceed at school are more illusive. For example, how to connect with a professor, social events with upper classmates and how to find non-advertised work placements are all things that are better understood through personal connections.
Peer mentorship helps students develop a sense of belonging
The authors write that peer mentoring programs can address the challenges caused by peer isolation.
Creating a network where students support each other is paramount to developing a community where historically underrepresented students feel they belong. A lack of support can turn into a downward spiral, as students without support may leave the community – either dropping out, transferring, or disconnecting as soon as they graduate – leaving fewer upper classmates to support the next group of students coming through.
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Source: John Burnett, Stephanie L. DeMora, Michelangelo Landgrave, Christian Lindke & Adriana Ninci (2022) How Can We Address Professional Isolation Among Traditionally Underrepresented Students? The Importance of Peer Mentorship, Journal of Political Science Education, 18:3, 425-429, DOI: 10.1080/15512169.2022.2053694