by Maureen Vandermaas-Peeler
In the recent AAC&U symposium entitled, America’s Global Future:  Are College Students Prepared?, presenters and participants grappled with such difficult questions as “What do our students need from their college studies to contribute and thrive in a 21st-century economy?” and “How do we ensure that the choices we make for our institutions are guided by a single societal priority:  the need to provide the most empowering forms of education to all college students whatever their background, whatever their majors, and whatever their career priorities?”  The overarching theme of this conference revolved around how we can prepare students for “an era of global interdependence.”
As teachers and mentors of undergraduate students, it is our mission to guide their development as future professionals and global citizens. Regardless of their post-graduation aims, our students will be asked to apply their knowledge and skills to novel problems and situations in diverse social and cultural contexts. It is our collective hope that the students will embrace opportunities to apply and extend what they learned at our institutions to solve problems in local and global communities. As Dr. Janet Bennett, Executive Director of the Intercultural Communication Institute and keynote speaker at the recent Workshop on Intercultural Skills Enhancement and conference (WISE), noted, “Global competency demands local competency; local competence is now global.” She and many other scholars advocate for educational practices that facilitate the intersection of these contexts (Bennett & Salonen, 2007).
As I participated in the conference seminars and workshops, I was struck by the urgency and passion with which speakers from diverse occupational and cultural contexts challenged the audience to devise ways to augment and integrate students’ educational experiences in order to prepare them for a global world. Inevitably the discussion centered on providing and assessing high-impact practices such as undergraduate research, internships, service learning and study abroad (Kuh, 2008). With increasing frequency, students are advised to take advantage of these opportunities in the course of their undergraduate education. At Elon University, for example, students are now required to have two “experiential learning” units in order to graduate; the vast majority of our students have studied abroad and completed an internship. Are there additive effects of participation in multiple experiences in local and global contexts? Does participation in one experience lead to enhanced learning in another experience? Is there a common denominator that enhances learning across contexts? These are some of the many questions for which we do not yet have answers, but the Center for Engaged Learning is exploring through research seminars and other initiatives.
The term “mentored experiences” is frequently mentioned in the context of undergraduate teaching and learning, particularly in discussions of ways to facilitate student learning in high-impact practices. It was an underlying theme in many of the conference presentations, and one that resonates with the ongoing work of participants in the CEL Research Seminar on Mentoring Undergraduate Research. An emphasis on mentoring is consistent with recent meta-analyses showing that across institutional contexts, developmental stages and types of mentoring, mentoring matters, though the nature of the favorable outcomes varies across contexts (Eby et al., 2008; Webber et al., 2013). These outcomes range from instrumental gains such as the development of professional skills to social benefits such as increased self-confidence. Despite considerable research on the benefits of mentored experiences for students, however, little attention has been afforded to other, critical aspects of mentoring relationships, such as the complexities of faculty mentors’ participation, the relationship of mentoring to teaching, scholarship and advising roles, and the nature of the mentoring process itself.
Academic mentoring models and the nature of the mentoring relationships may vary widely across social and cultural contexts. Although we often associate mentored experiences in undergraduate education with a “one faculty mentor to one student protégée” model, mentoring models can include a range of possibilities. In an apprenticeship model of undergraduate research, for instance, one faculty member may work with multiple undergraduates at different stages in their careers.  Other models incorporate graduate student mentors working with undergraduate researchers. Mentoring networks can include teams comprised of students and faculty from universities around the world whose ongoing interactions are facilitated by digital technologies, as in programs in which students from different countries present thematically linked, mentored undergraduate research projects via online seminars. In some semester abroad programs, a “cultural mentor” model is adopted, in which U.S. students are partnered with university students in their host countries to facilitate language and culture studies.  In a service-learning program, undergraduates may be paired with community mentors in co-constructed projects designed to fulfill community partners’ needs as well as enhance student learning.  In formal programs that include a mentoring component, administrators and faculty should consider ways to strengthen the social contexts within which mentoring takes place as well as the nature of the relationship between mentors and protégées (Ianni, 1990). Institutional characteristics such as size, selectivity, and mission, and individual characteristics including socio-economic background, age, ability, sex and ethnicity can influence the nature of mentoring relationships (Webber et al., 2013).  Dimensions such as the nature of the institution, the mentoring models, the qualities of the mentor and the socio-cultural backgrounds of the students are just a few of the factors that the CEL seminar participants are considering in their multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional projects.
How can we facilitate students’ “preparedness for a global world” through their participation in high-impact, mentored experiences?  Through on-going scholarship, and the work of our participants in the CEL Research Seminars in particular, we hope to contribute to the development of high quality, evidence-based practices that can facilitate teaching and learning in diverse local and global contexts.

  • Eby, LillianT., Allen, Tammy D., Evans, Sarah C., Ng, Thomas, & Dubois, David. (2008).  Does mentoring matter? A multidisciplinary meta-analysis comparing mentored and non-mentored individuals. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 72, 254-267.
  • Bennett, Janet M. & Salonen, Riikka. (2007) Intercultural communication and the new American campus. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 39:2, 46-50, DOI: 10.3200/CHNG.39.2.46-C4
  • Ianni, Francis A. J. (1990). Social, cultural and behavioral contexts of mentoring. Retrieved from
  • Kuh, George D. (2008). High-impact educational practices: What they are, who has access to them, and why they matter. Washington D.C.: Association of American Colleges and Universities.
  • Webber, Karen L., Nelson Laird, Thomas F., & BrckaLorenz, Allison M. (2013).  Student and faculty member engagement in undergraduate research.  Research in Higher Education, 54, 227-249.

Maureen Vandermaas-Peeler is a Professor of Psychology at Elon University and a Seminar Leader for the 2014-2016 CEL Seminar on Mentoring Undergraduate Research.

How to cite this post:

Vandermaas-Peeler, Maureen. 2015, February 17. Diverse Contexts of Mentoring. [Blog Post]. Retrieved from