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Management and Assessment of a Successful Peer Mentor Program for Increasing Freshmen Retention

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

FPD 4: Peers and Perceptions

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.882.1 - 24.882.42



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Paper Authors


Jeff Johnson LeTourneau University

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Jeff Johnson is an instructor at LeTourneau University. He received his B.S. in mechanical engineering technology from LeTourneau in 1994 then proceeded to spend 16 years in industry focusing on machine and civil design as well as project management. In 2010 he began his teaching career at his alma mater to share his experiences with engineering and technology students. He is currently a co-PI on the school's NSF-STEP retention grant.

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Alan D. Niemi LeTourneau University

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Alan D. Niemi is a professor and chair of engineering technology at LeTourneau University. He received his B.S. in electrical engineering technology from Lake Superior State University and his M.S.E.E. from Illinois Institute of Technology. He has taught courses in electrical engineering and technology for 27 years. In addition to teaching, Prof. Niemi has spent seven years in industry designing digital and microcontroller systems.

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Matthew G. Green LeTourneau University

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Dr. Matthew G. Green is an associate professor of mechanical engineering at LeTourneau University, Longview. His objective is to practice and promote engineering as a serving profession. His focus includes remote power generation, design methods for frontier environments, enhanced engineering learning, and assistive devices for persons with disabilities.

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Lauren Elise Gentry LeTourneau University

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Lauren Gentry is the assistant director for student guidance at LeTourneau University. She received her B.S. in sociology from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in 2000 and her master's in business administration from LeTourneau University in 2010. She has spent the past 10 years in higher education serving in numerous roles, including enrollment services, athletics, and retention. Lauren currently serves in the role of supervising the freshman-year experience.

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Management and Assessment of a Successful Peer Mentor Program for Increasing Freshmen RetentionAbstractThere is no single magic bullet for the retention of freshmen engineering students upon entranceinto a rigorous course of study required of today’s engineering curriculum. Rather it is a multi-faceted approach of strategies each designed to aid the transition from an often-times easy highschool experience to one in which a student is overwhelmed with the difficulty andresponsibilities of a full-time student.One such strategy that has been implemented at a small, private university is a peer mentoringprogram which pairs small groups of 5-9 “first time in any college” (FTIC) students with anupper classmen of like major who has successfully navigated the first year. While a peermentoring program is not ground-breaking in itself, several successful techniques formanagement and assessment of the mentors have been developed which may benefit otherinstitutions that are seeking to implement or may be struggling to manage similar programsThe peer mentoring program is one aspect of an overall greater effort started in 2010 aimed atretention and supported by a 5-year project funded by NSF-STEP. Three years of this projecthave yielded significant improvements in the one-year and two-year retention rates. While thepeer mentor program can be credited with some of these improvements other new retentioninitiatives include: • A faculty mentor program for FTIC students • An industrial mentor program for FTIC students • Two completely redesigned multi-disciplinary first-year engineering practice courses designed to answer the question “What do engineers do?”This paper will seek to detail how the institution implements the peer mentor program. It beginswith a rigorous selection process that attempts to promote the most qualified candidates for therole of mentor. The program is structured to provide as many tools and support as necessary forthe mentors to perform their assigned tasks of helping the freshmen student survive and thrive.Leadership development is at the core and several layers of accountability are built in to providethe requisite support.In addition, this paper seeks to provide insight on several challenges of the peer mentor program.For example: • How can we accurately measure the effectiveness of a peer mentoring program, since it is only one aspect of a retention effort, with respect to the overall program initiatives? • How can we determine if students are staying due to a successful peer mentor/FTIC relationship? • What motivations are there for an upper-classmen to enroll in the program? • What advantages can be gained by successful retention of peer mentors to serve a second year?

Johnson, J., & Niemi, A. D., & Green, M. G., & Gentry, L. E. (2014, June), Management and Assessment of a Successful Peer Mentor Program for Increasing Freshmen Retention Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--22815

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