Someone like me: Exploring race mentoring and its impact on retention and campus climate among college students

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Institutions of higher learning have seen increased pressure to improve retention and graduation rates. Funding, institutional prestige, and recruitment are often tied to retention and graduation rates, motivating institutions to increase persistence rates. One way of addressing minority student persistence is to provide students with mentors. Students who have mentors tend to have higher academic achievement, especially those students who are members of an ethnic minority and female. Existing literature insufficiently addresses racial mentoring and persistence at the collegiate level with a focus on campus climate. To fill this gap, this dissertation examines racialized mentor relationships and factors that impact college persistence towards degree attainment, cultural climate, and racial efficacy among college students at a university that predominantly serves women.

Four research questions guided this study. First, is there a difference in college student success between students who received same-race mentoring and those who received cross-race mentoring? Second, how does broad-racial group membership interact with racial mentoring to affect college student success? Third, is there a difference in cultural climate experiences between those students who have same-race mentors and those who have cross-race mentors? Finally, how does collective racial efficacy interact with racial mentoring to affect college student success?

The study uses a cross-sectional design and focuses on the importance of mentoring students at Texas Woman's University, the largest public university in the U.S., primarily for women. I used the Multi-Institutional Study of Leadership Survey (MSL2015, MSL2018) and concentrated on 960 participants who were in the Fall 2014 and Fall 2017 cohorts. This unique environment provides additional insights into the contextual factors associated with mentoring and student persistence.

Results show that more college students select mentors within their race, yet there was no statistical relationship predicting student success, cultural climate, or racial efficacy. GPA was moderately higher for those students who did have a mentor. In addition, evidence of relationships that indicate that racial mentoring importance to student sense of belonging and academic success. Mentoring has a positive influence on student success, cultural climate and racial efficacy.

This dissertation contributes to the sociology of education and ethnic studies fields in four ways. First, it will be the first quantitative, comparative study of college persistence and race mentoring of college students from an institution primarily for women. Second, the theoretical framework proposed in this dissertation will integrate cultural capital and social capital theory and offer a structure appropriate for predicting student success and persistence of college students. Third, the findings of this study will yield significant implications for improving college persistence and future work on same-race and cross-race mentoring. Finally, the results of this study may help generate programs and policies that will enhance the accessibility of higher education, particularly for minority students. Other practical contributions include specific retention approaches and models for universities, mentor strategies, and relationship building mechanisms for sociocultural diverse college students.

Race mentoring, Retention