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Exploring Motivations of Volunteer Undergraduate Head Mentors in Engineering Outreach to Underserved and Underrepresented K-12 Mentees

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Diversity in Community Engagement Implementation II

Tagged Division

Community Engagement Division

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Jennifer L Sullivan Rice University

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Jenny works as a research engineer at Rice University, where she splits her time between helping to coordinate the DREAM – Achievement through Mentorship program and conducting research in rehabilitation robotics. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Rice University and a master’s degree from the University of British Columbia, both in mechanical engineering. She enjoys doing outreach work to increase diversity in STEM, having served as a DREAM mentor for 2 years during college and also as a student coordinator for the UBC Women in Engineering Program during grad school. In addition to outreach, she is a strong proponent of effective teaching and learning practices in STEM education.

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David Daniels DREAM - Achievement Through Mentorship

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David is a Head Mentor for DREAM - Achievement Through Mentorship. He is currently entering his final year as an undergraduate at Rice University, where he is studying Cognitive Sciences and Education Policy.

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Imani O. Butler Rice University

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Ms. Imani O. Butler is a Head Mentor in DREAM-Achievement through Mentorship and an undergraduate at Rice University studying Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

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Brent C Houchens Rice University

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Brent C. Houchens is the Founding Director of the DREAM-Achievement through Mentorship program.

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The motivations of volunteer Head Mentors over the nine year history of DREAM-Achievement through Mentorship are investigated. This engineering outreach program has impacted thousands of underserved, underrepresented high school mentees. The program focuses on high mentoring contact hours. Over 200 mentors, primarily undergraduate engineering students, have volunteered in DREAM and as of 2015 over 100 had completed their undergraduate degrees. Of these former mentors, 25 served as Head Mentors as of spring 2015. These Head Mentors oversee the program at each school, develop design projects, organize and direct the other mentors, suggest and implement new initiatives in the program, and carry out research on the outcomes and effectiveness of the program. The Head Mentors volunteer a particularly large amount of time over their commitment of at least 3 semesters. An adaptation of Clary and Snyder’s Volunteer Functions Inventory (VFI) provides a quantitative indication of motivations indicating that volunteer Head Mentors are overwhelmingly motivated by the Values function, related to altruistic and humanitarian concern for others. Qualitative analysis of free response questions in the internally developed Mentors Self-Assessment Survey (MSAS) indicates that the Pre-existing Personal Values concept is responsible for this motivation. While other motivations are also important to the Head Mentors, this study indicates that the clearest way to identify dedicated volunteers is through measurement of their values instilled since childhood. Additionally, results of the qualitative analysis indicate that Head Mentors placed high importance on the concepts of Skills Development, Awareness/Impact and Interactions all experienced as part of their Head Mentoring roles. Most Head Mentors demonstrated increased satisfaction with their undergraduate education as a result of participation in DREAM, as measured by the External Application concept. Surprisingly, the concept of Emotional Gain, including categories such as personal fulfillment, self-confidence, and satisfaction associated with mentoring rarely appeared in responses.

Sullivan, J. L., & Daniels, D., & Butler, I. O., & Houchens, B. C. (2016, June), Exploring Motivations of Volunteer Undergraduate Head Mentors in Engineering Outreach to Underserved and Underrepresented K-12 Mentees Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26853

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