Asee peer logo

Motivations of Volunteer DREAM Mentors

Download Paper |


2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Service as an Element of Education

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.951.1 - 25.951.13

Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Angie Martiza Bautista-Chavez Rice University

author page

Allison Nicole Garza Rice University

author page

Stephanie M. Herkes Rice University

author page

Nicholas W. McClendon Rice University

author page

Aaron Layne Sharpe Rice University

author page

Brent C. Houchens Rice University

author page

Kurt Jonathan Kienast Rice University

Download Paper |


Motivations of Volunteer DDDD Mentors ABC, AG, SH, KK, NM, AS, BH Long-term mentoring to increase the number of underrepresented minority students andwomen in the STEM pipeline, particularly engineering, is accomplished through the DDDD-Achievement through Mentorship program. In DDDD, engineering undergraduates volunteer asmentors for underrepresented high school students (mentees) from socioeconomicallydisadvantaged backgrounds. Mentors and mentees carry out design projects in groups usingcommonly available materials to solve a task or series of tasks, such as optimizing a wind turbineblade or constructing the strongest cantilever. Findings are very promising - mentees showsignificant increased interest in engineering. Furthermore, aptitude is enhanced throughparticipation in DDDD, helping mentees gain admission to high quality degree programs, andthen succeed in their studies. After 4 years of investigating the outcomes for mentees, this work focuses on mentors.DDDD mentors volunteer their time freely every week. They do not receive pay or credit. Eachmentor typically volunteers 1.5-2.5 hours per week, in one visit to one school. This includestravel time to and from the schools, which ranges from 30 minutes to 50 minutes, round-trip. Onany given day, between 4-8 mentors visit a single school. The motivations of the mentors areexplored in this work. Of interest is both why mentors first join the program, and then why theystay involved, often for years. Three instruments were used to survey the DDDD mentors. The first is an internallydeveloped Mentors Self-Assessment Survey (MSAS), which was first used in 2009. The MSAScontains both Likert scale and open-ended responses to help better understand subtleties andidentify outliers. The second, Clary and Snyder’s Volunteer Functions Inventory (VFI), was adapted for usewith DDDD Mentors. The 7-point Likert scale, 30 item VFI assesses each of six functionspotentially served by volunteering: Career, Social, Values, Understanding, Enhancement andProtective. Previous research has shown that the individual scales of the VFI possess a highdegree of internal consistency (i.e., the items of each scale relate to one another) and are stable(responses to the scales are consistent over time) (Clary and Snyder, 1999: 157). The VFI isinformative about the motivations themselves and their importance to respondents (Clary andSnyder, 1999: 157). In addition, the VFI includes a 12 item Outcomes measure and a 5 itemSatisfaction measure. Returning mentors were surveyed in these areas to better compare theiroutcomes to the motivations of new mentors. Finally, an adapted version of Esmond and Dunlop’s Volunteer Motivation Inventory (VMI)was used. This is a 44 item assessment of which 18 items were identified as being moderately tocompletely unique from those on the VFI. The other 26 items were mapped to one or more itemson the VFI and these questions were not repeated. To score the VMI the correspondingresponses from the the 7-point scale of the VFI were shifted to the 5-point VMI scale via themapping. The VMI breaks motivations in ten categories.Literature Review The overwhelming majority of mentees indicated Values and Understanding functions on theVFI as the key reasons for volunteering. Values is related to altruistic and humanitarian concernfor others. “Related to Katz’s (1960) value expressive functions and Smith et al.’s (1965) qualityof expressiveness functions, concern for others is often characteristic of those who volunteer(Anderson & Moore, 1978), distinguishes volunteers from non-volunteers (Allen & Rushton,1983), and predicts whether volunteers complete their expected period of service (Clary &Miller, 1986; Clary & Orenstein, 1991).” 1 Understanding is related to the opportunity for volunteerism to permit new learningexperiences and the change to exercise knowledge, skills, and abilities that might otherwise gounpracticed. Related to the knowledge and object appraisal functions in theories of attitudes andpersuasion, this Understanding function is exemplified by the large number of Gidron’s (1978)volunteers in health and mental health institutions who expected to receive benefits related toself-development, learning, and variety in life through their volunteer service” (Clary et al.,1998: 1518) Previous research points to the “multi-motivational” nature of volunteering, meaning thatdifferent volunteers pursue different goals, and the same volunteer may be pursuing more thanone goal (Clary and Snyder, 1999: 157). This can also be viewed in light of the altruism-egoismdebate: while some argue that helpfulness is motivated by a selfish desire to benefit oneself,others argue helpfulness is sometimes based on a selfless concern for the other. The “matching hypothesis” suggests that persuasive messages can motivate people to initiatevolunteer service to the extent that the messages are tailored to the specific motivationsimportant to individual recipients of the messages. As demonstrated by previous research(Clary, Snyder, Ridge, Muene, & Haugen, 1994; Clary et al., 1998), attempts to recruitvolunteers will succeed to the extent that they address the specific motivational functionsunderlying behavior and attitudes. Previous research suggests that “volunteers whosemotivational concerns are served by their participation [will] derive greater satisfaction thanthose whose concerns are not met” (Clary and Snyder, 1999: 158). In terms of retention, thismeans that volunteers’ “actual intentions to continue serving as volunteers will… be linked to thematching between experiences and motivations” (158; see Clary et al., 1998). Previous research has shown that monetary rewards undermine the intrinsic motivation ofvolunteers (Frey and Goette, 1999). In fact, Frey and Geotte (1999) found that when rewarded,volunteers work less. Their findings support the social psychology framework that emphasizingexternal rewards can actually undermine the intrinsic motivation for an activity (also see Deci,Edward L., Richard Koestner, and Richard M. Ryan (forthcoming), “Extrinsic Rewards andIntrinsic Motivation: A Clear and Consistent Picture After All.” Psychological Bulletin).Findings The primary focus of this study is on results from the VFI. The VFI was given to 40 DDDDmentors, 22 new and 18 experienced, within the first week of fall 2011 program. Theexperienced mentors had an average of 2.28 and a median of 2 semesters of previous mentoringexperience, and covered a range of 1 to 5 semesters of experience. Of the 40 mentors surveyed,22 self-identified as being from groups underrepresented in science and engineering (19Hispanic, 2 African American and 1 Native American). The respondents were split roughlyevenly by gender, with 23 men (57.5%) and 17 women (42.5%). Interestingly, independent to how the group was divided, the mentors motivations werealways highest in the Values function and second highest in the Understanding function. For all1 NB: references will be moved to the main text in the full paper and the abstract will be reducedto appropriate lengthmentors, out of a possible 35, the Values function was 29.1 (5.82 average per item) while theUnderstanding function was 26.2 (5.24 average per item). The next two categories weresignificantly lower, coming in at 18.3 (3.66 average per item) and 18.2 (3.64 average per item)for Career and Enhancement functions, respectively. The lowest motivations were 15.25 forProtective and 14.88 for Social motivations (3.05 and 2.98 average per item). In comparing new and returning mentors, it was found that returning mentors placedsomewhat more value on the Values, Understanding and Enhancement functions and somewhatless value on the Protective function. The largest disparity was in the Social function, for whichreturning mentors had an average score of 16.6 while new mentors scored 13.45. Experiencedmentors clearly value the social interaction that DDDD affords, but this remains only their 5thhighest ranked function. Career function scores were unchanged between new and experiencedmentors. Race and ethnicity was considered for the three largest groups, Hispanic, Asian-Americanand Caucasian (55%, 22.5% and 17.5%, respectively). Two mentors identified as both Hispanicand Caucasian, and these were recorded as Hispanic. Across these three groups there were nosignificant differences in motivations. Motivations of male and female mentors were also compared. The overall trend wasunchanged. Interestingly though, males ranked their motivations higher in all 5 functions. Themost significant changes were in Enhancement (19.7 for males, 16.2 for females) and Social(16.2 for males, 13.1 for females) functions. In the other three functions the differences are 2.2or less between motivations of males and females. The disparity in the Social function isperhaps the most surprising, as many studies suggest that women can be retained in engineeringthrough the use of group design projects, particularly in freshman year. The theory that womenprefer working in teams because of the Social aspect is not supported by the current work. Experienced, returning mentors report their two most significant outcomes also in the ValuesOutcomes (6.11 average) and Understanding Outcomes (5.55 average) categories, consistent withtheir motivations. Social Outcomes (4.78 average) rank third for returning mentors, nowsignificantly above the Enhancement Outcomes (4.19 average). Not surprisingly, returningmentors generally report a high degree of Satisfaction (30.6/35 or a 6.12 average per item). Finally, the in-house developed component was used to determine if mentors feel sufficientlycompensated for their time. Mentors were asked if they felt they should receive pay for theirtime, or academic credit. Three of the 22 new mentors expressed an interest in being paid fortheir time, and seven of 22 expressed the desire to get academic credit. In comparison, none ofthe returning mentors felt that they should be paid and only two of 18 felt academic credit mightbe appropriate. This trend has been observed before. In a similar survey in the spring of 2009,no experienced mentors felt they should be paid for mentoring. All new mentors who initiallybelieved they should be paid changed their response after one semester of DDDD experience.

Bautista-Chavez, A. M., & Garza, A. N., & Herkes, S. M., & McClendon, N. W., & Sharpe, A. L., & Houchens, B. C., & Kienast, K. J. (2012, June), Motivations of Volunteer DREAM Mentors Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas.

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2012 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015