Abstract Detail

Education and Outreach

Tuma, Trevor T [1], Dolan, Erin L [2].

Doctoral students’ perceptions of high-quality mentorship depend on deep-level similarity not demographic match.

High-quality mentorship represents one effective mechanism for recruiting and retaining students in STEM graduate education. A substantial body of research demonstrates that mentoring can lead to a constellation of beneficial outcomes. Despite the strong positive relationship between quality mentorship and desirable mentee outcomes, far less is known about factors that predict the formation of high-quality mentoring relationships. Mentee-mentor similarity represents one positive predictor hypothesized to influence mentoring support and relationship quality. However, similarity between mentees and mentors can include deep-level similarity (e.g., shared values, beliefs, personality) and surface-level similarity (e.g., shared gender, race/ethnicity). The notion that similarity is prerequisite to forming quality mentoring relationships in STEM graduate education is problematic given the limited diversity of faculty members and increasing diversity of the graduate population. Some progress has been made to offer professional development on culturally aware mentoring in order to equip mentors with knowledge and skills to effectively support mentees from different demographic backgrounds. However, few studies have examined the effect of similarity and culturally aware mentoring on mentoring outcomes and relationship quality. To test the influence of similarity on mentoring outcomes, we collected data from a national sample of life science doctoral students (n=565) from over 69 universities in the US. We then used structural equation modeling to identify relationships between cultural diversity awareness, surface-level similarity, and deep-level similarity on doctoral students’ perceptions of the career and psychosocial support they receive from their mentors and their overall relationship quality. We found that deep-level similarity had a large, positive relationship on career support (ß = 0.32, p < 0.001), psychosocial support (ß = 0.69, p < 0.001), and relationship quality (ß = 0.71, p = < 0.001). Furthermore, mentees’ perceptions of their mentors’ cultural awareness was significantly and positively related to mentees’ perceptions of career support (ß = 0.20, p < 0.001), psychosocial support (ß = 0.27, p < 0.001), and relationship quality (ß = 0.19, p = 0.004). In contrast, gender match was not related to mentee perceptions of support or relationship quality. Race/ethnicity match also was not related to their perceptions of career support and was negatively associated with both psychosocial support (ß = -0.20, p < 0.001) and relationship quality (ß = -0.15 p = < 0.005). Considered collectively, doctoral students who reported sharing values and beliefs (i.e., deep-level similarity) with their mentors reported higher levels of mentoring support and greater relationship quality. Doctoral students who perceived their mentors recognized and responded to their culturally-shaped attitudes, beliefs, and differences were more likely to report high-quality mentoring relationships. Our findings suggest that same gender relationships were not meaningfully related to mentoring quality and that same race/ethnicity relationships were negatively associated with psychosocial support and relationship quality. Taken together, these findings provide insight on the effects of similarity on the extent to which doctoral students perceive they have high-quality mentorship. In light of these results, mentees should consider seeking out mentors who share their values and perspectives and exhibit cultural awareness, rather than mentors whose demographics match theirs.

1 - University of Georgia, Department of Plant Biology & Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Davison Life Sciences, 120 E Green Street, Athens, GA, 30602, USA
2 - University of Georgia, Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Davison Life Sciences, 120 E Green Street, Athens, GA, 30602, USA

graduate education
career development.

Presentation Type: Oral Paper
Number: EO1003
Abstract ID:458
Candidate for Awards:None

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