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Unanticipated Outcomes: Social and Academic Benefits for STEM Peer Mentors

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Innovative and Impactful Engineering Leadership Pedagogy

Tagged Division

Engineering Leadership Development

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Paper Authors


Adrienne Steele Louisiana State University and A&M College

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Adrienne Steele has over 20 years of experience in STEM education. Currently, Adrienne works at Louisiana State University as the Assistant Director of Student Programs and Outreach in the Chevron Center for Engineering Education. Her current responsibilities include managing a large peer mentoring program, facilitating all aspects of a first-year student bridge camp, assisting faculty members with outreach activities and grant proposals, and working with other student leadership programs in the College of Engineering. Previously, she coordinated the Scope-On-A-Rope (SOAR) Outreach Program in the Department of Biological Sciences, where she worked for 10 years and led 175 workshops for K-12 teachers. Prior to her positions at LSU, Adrienne was the Science Education Curator at the Louisiana Art and Science Museum in Baton Rouge. Adrienne has a Master of Science degree in zoology, and an Education Specialist Certification in science education.

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Warren N. Waggenspack Jr. Louisiana State University and A&M College

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Warren N. Waggenspack, Jr. served 5 years as the ME Undergraduate Program Director and and is currently the Ned Adler Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Louisiana State University. He obtained both his baccalaureate and master's degrees from LSU ME and his doctorate from Purdue University's School of Mechanical Engineering. He has been actively engaged in teaching, research and curricula development since joining the LSU faculty in 1988. As Associate Dean in the College of Engineering (2004-2014), he acquired significant funding from NSF to support the development of several initiatives aimed at improving student retention and graduation rates as well as supporting faculty with development of effective learning and teaching pedagogies.

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Joseph Learned Odenwald

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Joseph Odenwald worked in student affairs for twelve years. He previously served as assistant dean for student services at LSU's College of Engineering. Currently, he is President of Southwestern Michigan College.

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This practice paper will present the findings of qualitative assessment conducted on undergraduate participants in a peer mentoring program in the College of Engineering at a large public university. Past research mostly focuses on the effects of mentoring programs on the protégés–those who benefit from being mentored. With the increase of leadership and peer mentoring programs across universities [1], it’s important to examine all aspects and impacts of these programs on all students served. Over several years, it became apparent that the mentoring program had quite a positive effect on the mentors themselves as well as the protégés. Intrigued by higher graduation rates of former peer mentors, the researchers sought to discover and examine the academic and social benefits peer mentors found by participating in this program. A random number generator was used to select twenty people from a list of all mentors who served at least two years in the program (n=101) since its inception in 2007. Many of these mentors had graduated and worked in various engineering positions, while others were current students. The program coordinator emailed these twenty mentors and eight agreed to be interviewed. Phone interviews were conducted by a researcher outside of the program, and the identities of these eight students were not shared with this researcher. All interviews were transcribed by a third party, and they were coded using Tesch’s eight steps for coding qualitative data [2]. Themes that emerged were validated using member checking to ensure that the participants agreed with the conclusions [3]. Four main themes emerged from these interviews: development of leadership and communication skills, improved sense of community, increase in motivation, and discovery of purpose. Information gathered from these interviews suggest that participation as a mentor was academically enriching, ensuring the mentors’ own academic persistence, as well as socially beneficial, with the program serving as a springboard for other leadership opportunities within the college and larger university. Gathering data on the effects of peer mentoring programs on the mentors themselves can help to solidify new mentoring programs and to inform well-established programs of patterns and benefits of which administration may not already be aware.


[1] M. Klassen, D. Reeve, C. Rottmann, R. Sacks, A. E. Simpson, and A. Huynh, “Charting the landscape of engineering leadership education in North American universities,” in Proceedings of the American Society for Engineering Education 123rd Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, LA, USA, June 26-29, 2016, paper ID #15201.

[2] R. Tesch, Qualitative Research: Analysis Types and Software Tools. New York: Falmer, 1990.

[3] J. Creswell, Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches (4th ed.). Los Angeles: Sage Publications, 2014.

Steele, A., & Waggenspack, W. N., & Odenwald, J. L. (2021, July), Unanticipated Outcomes: Social and Academic Benefits for STEM Peer Mentors Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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