The Role of Faculty Mentoring in Improving Retention and Completion Rates for Historically Underrepresented STEM Students

Kelli Chelberg, Lisa Bosman


There is a growing recognition of the need for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workers who provide diverse perspectives enabling companies to keep up with the demands of the 21st-century workforce. Creating a diverse workforce requires improving access to STEM education for historically underrepresented students, including low-income students and first-generation students. However, significant challenges and barriers exist. The purpose of this paper is to showcase an innovative approach to mentoring historically underrepresented STEM students which integrates photovoice and photo-elicitation. This new approach in mentoring takes student participation one step further by asking students to document and share their lived experiences through photographs (e.g., photovoice). Then, photo-elicitation is used to further engage students in discussing what led to their subsequent empowerment in leveraging successes or overcoming barriers. The study was conducted with 19 participants who were primarily American Indian students attending a small college in Wisconsin, USA. The findings suggest students benefited from the mentoring program and perceived it as an enriching learning experience which aided in goal development, accountability, and an opportunity to learn more about strategies for student success. The implementation of this new approach and the results gathered from this study are important as they may inform educational leaders and postsecondary institutions serving historically underrepresented STEM students on supports and strategies that could be carried out on their campuses. 

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International Journal of Higher Education
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