Mentor/Mentee Relationships: The Experience Of African American Stem Majors
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Type of WorkText
DepartmentMathematics and Science Education Program
ProgramDoctor of Education
RightsThis item is made available by Morgan State University for personal, educational, and research purposes in accordance with Title 17 of the U.S. Copyright Law. Other uses may require permission from the copyright owner.
SubjectsScience--Study and teaching
Mathematics--Study and teaching
The focus of this study was to understand the mentor/mentee relationship by uncovering the practices and behaviors of mentors in successful mentoring relationships in which the student was an African American STEM major. More importantly, this study focused on the meanings that the practices and behaviors of mentors held for the mentees. Qualitative research methods were used to develop a micro-level understanding of the mentor-mentee relationship in an effort to understand how this relationship might impact persistence in obtaining a STEM degree. Six high-achieving African Americans from the Meyerhoff Scholars Program were interviewed, along with six STEM mentors and three Meyerhoff mentors identified by the mentees as having a significant role in their success in obtaining an undergraduate STEM degree. The under-representation and marginalization of African Americans in the STEM fields have been explained by some scholars as the result of a mismatch between the African American culture and Western science. Western science can be viewed as a culture with its own norms, values and epistemologies (Jegede & Okebukola, 1999). This world of Western science culture, largely dominated by White male scientists and professors can create hazards for many students who bring an African-based view of the universe. It was thus of interest to study the experiences of successful African Americans who identified the influence of mentors as being important to their success. Analysis of the data yielded five themes, which characterized the mentor/mentee relationship. They were: Making connections, Mentor is "like family," Dealing with STEM specific stress, Improving mentee's self esteem and efficacy, and Creating a mature STEM adult professional. Of these, mentees identified the creation of a "like family" atmosphere as the most important aspect of the mentoring relationship, and they credited their mentors with creating the bonds that resembled "family." In many ways, the Meyerhoff Program became a surrogate family and provided a home away from home for participants. The mentees identified their unique Summer Bridge experience, described as "boot camp" and "officer training," as essential to building bonds with mentors and their peers. In essence the actions of the mentees provided a bridge that allowed these African American students access to the world of science, which might not otherwise have been accessible to them.