Mentoring relationships are fundamentally developmental and learner-centered, and within college and university environments, specifically, mentoring relationships are distinct from other meaningful relationships in that they:

  • promote academic, social, personal, identity, cultural, and/or career-focused learning and development in intentional, sustained, and integrative ways;
  • evolve over time, becoming more reciprocal and mutually beneficial;
  • are individualized, attending to mentees’ developing strengths and shifting needs, mentors’ expertise, and all members’ identities; and
  • function within a broader set of relationships known as a mentoring constellation.

Read More about Defining Mentoring Relationships

Three people sit at a table, talking while looking over documents by a computer. An overlay reads, "Elon University Center for Engaged Learning. Mentoring Matters. Defining Mentoring Relationships."

Defining Mentoring and/as Mentoring Relationships

If mentoring matters, what is meant by mentoring, and what does high-quality mentoring entail? Despite over four decades of research on mentoring, there is no universally accepted definition (Mullen and Klimaitis 2021). Ubiquitous use of the term has not only…

Three people sit at a table, talking while looking over documents by a computer. An overlay reads, "Elon University Center for Engaged Learning. Mentoring Matters. Defining Mentoring Relationships."

Defining Mentoring: Towards Mentoring Constellations

As scholarship on mentoring moved away from roles and actions towards processes and relationship development, definitions of mentoring have developed greater commonality not only around a shared focus on relationships, but also a shared focus on the general functions and…

Suggested Citation

Moore, Jessie L., Maureen Vandermaas-Peeler, and Tim Peeples. 2024. “Defining Mentoring Relationships.” Mentoring Matters: Supporting Students’ Development of Mentoring Constellations in Higher Education. Center for Engaged Learning. https://www.centerforengagedlearning.org/mentoring-matters/defining-mentoring-relationships.