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Freshman Engineering Leadership Team: Student Mentors For Recruitment And Retention

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1996 Annual Conference


Washington, District of Columbia

Publication Date

June 23, 1996

Start Date

June 23, 1996

End Date

June 26, 1996



Page Count


Page Numbers

1.224.1 - 1.224.7



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Paper Authors

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Sandra L. Bishop

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Mary E. Besterfield-Sacre

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 3553

Freshman Engineering Leadership Team: Student Mentors for Recruitment and Retention

Sandra L. Bishop, Mary Besterfield-Sacre University of Phtsburgh

Peer mentoring is commonly used in universities for a variety of student sewices and instructional activities. However, use of mentors in independent instruction is relatively new in engineering education. The student-peer relationship is unique and can capitalize on certain traits such as honesty, approachability, and empathy. This potentially surpasses that of the faculty-student relationship. Capturing these elements and implementing them into the Freshman Engineering experience requires commitment and resources; however, in application to recruitment and retentio~ the numerous benefits outweigh initial investments.

The Freshman Engineering Seminar at the University of Pittsburgh is a non-credit course required by all freshman engineering students. It traditionally included guest speakers and panel discussions, and lacked involvement by upper-class engineering students. During the 1995-96 academic year, a redesign of the seminar occurred emphasizing small group discussions facilitated by student peer mentors. Content was expanded beyond departmental information to include development of student survival skills. These skills are not only important for the fi-eshman transition but are also elements that lead to success in a changing workplace.

This paper dkcusses objectives of the mentor program and provides a comprehensive guide for others to follow when developing similar programs. Mentors were selected and trained to manage groups of twenty freshmen, as well as conduct recruitment activities. The paper fi.n-ther discusses how the program evolved fi-om administrative directed to mentor initiated activities. Finally, keys to transporting such a program to another institution and trouble- shooting hints are presented. The program has proven to be successful as demonstrated by improved retention and recruitment statistics, and through formal assessment of freshman students and mentor attitudes.


Regardless of how strong an institution’s retention and recruitment statistics are, efforts are always directed to fbrther improve enrollment. The University of Pittsburgh is no exception. In the School of Engineering, the freshman seminar was an obvious area providing opportunity for improvement. In previous years, the Freshman Success Seminar was presented in a large auditorium where all 250-300 freshman engineers met for presentations from engineering alumni, departmental faculty, and for discussions with engineering student panels. This style of presenting itiormation was not only chaotic, but also not conducive to students learning valuable itiormation about the engineering field and academic success strategies. In additio% the Freshman Program office lacked a sufficient student pool for involvement in recruitment activities. Given the combination of student boredom and a Freshman Program staiTfacing burnout, a proactive change was necessary.

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{ti~~ 1996 ASEE Annual Conference Proceedings ‘“.+,~!!.:

Bishop, S. L., & Besterfield-Sacre, M. E. (1996, June), Freshman Engineering Leadership Team: Student Mentors For Recruitment And Retention Paper presented at 1996 Annual Conference, Washington, District of Columbia. 10.18260/1-2--6067

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