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Using Peer Mentoring to Enhance Transfer Student Experience and Increase Student Success in Mechanical Engineering

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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

Enhancing Student Success in Two-Year Colleges

Tagged Division

Two Year College Division

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Nicolas N Brown University of Utah Department of Mechanical Engineering

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Nicolas is a senior in the mechanical engineering department at the University of Utah. He is the peer mentoring coordinator for the Department of Mechanical Engineering, as well as an Undergraduate Research Assistant for the Ergonomics and Safety Lab. His current area of research involves designing and integrating control systems on recreational equipment for high-level spinal cord injury patients. Nicolas’ senior design project is the Rodent Tracker; a mechatronics solution for managing wiring harnesses of laboratory rodents in large-scale obstacle courses.

Address: Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Utah, 1495 East 100 South, 1550 MEK, Salt Lake City, UT 84112 Phone: 801-808-3571 Email:

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Joy Velarde University of Utah

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Joy Velarde is an Academic Advisor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Utah. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Brigham Young University and a Master of Arts degree in Higher Education Administration from Boston College.

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Debra J Mascaro University of Utah

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Debra J. Mascaro is the Director of Undergraduate Studies in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Utah. She holds a B.A. in Physics from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN, and a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She primarily teaches freshman design and programming courses.

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This paper describes a new peer mentor program for transfer mechanical engineering students at a large public institution in the intermountain west. The program was initiated to help address issues transfer students have when transitioning from two-year institutions to a four-year mechanical engineering program. For example, transfer students frequently encounter issues with course articulation, registration, larger class sizes, higher level coursework, access to professors, and a lack of peer network to create study groups. Peer mentor programs have been shown to increase levels of student success higher education transistions, and higher likelihood of students identifying with the university community in multiple studies. In an effort to help new students feel included, this department of mechanical engineering has implemented a peer-mentoring program to serve all students new to the major, including incoming first year and transfer students. This paper will focus on the transfer students, which comprise about 40% of a typical junior class. The program is an “opt-out” program that is administered by the mechanical engineering department with peer mentors recruited on a volunteer-only basis. Students and peer mentors are paired based on common demographics and interests. During the summer of 2015, a call for volunteers and application form was emailed out to all junior and senior-level students in the mechanical engineering major. 24 volunteers were recruited, comprised of juniors, seniors, international students, men, women, honors students, transfer students, and veterans. Next, all newly admitted students to the major were sent a survey asking optional demographic questions and questions regarding interests and hobbies that were also asked of the mentors on their application, in order to match students with mentors with similar backgrounds. Questions were also asked to help gauge the effectiveness of the program. New students were then matched with mentors based on the demographic and interest data, and students who did not answer the survey, or indicated that they did not want their answers to be used when pairing them with a mentor, were randomly assigned a mentor. Transfer students were assigned to five specific mentors, all of whom were transfer students themselves. In all, about 70 transfer students were assigned a peer mentor, with each mentor assigned between 10-15 students. The initial anecdotal response from new students, mentors, faculty and staff has been overwhelmingly positive. This paper will describe the outcomes of the first academic year of the program, based on survey outcomes, and open interview question sessions conducted with both the peer mentors and their mentees to determine the overall effectiveness of the program. We will also analyze the data to determine if there was any difference in effectiveness of pairing a student with a mentor based on similar demographics or interests, versus randomly pairing student with mentors. The program will be deemed effective if students indicate an increased sense of belonging in the department and at the university and if we see an increase in student satisfaction and success.

Brown, N. N., & Velarde, J., & Mascaro, D. J. (2016, June), Using Peer Mentoring to Enhance Transfer Student Experience and Increase Student Success in Mechanical Engineering Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.27158

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