College students report racially disparate mentorship experiences, survey finds

A new survey takes a close look at the nature of college mentoring relationships, finding that professors are most likely to fulfill that role for undergraduates, The Chronicle of Higher Education reports. The Strada-Gallup Alumni Survey, which polled some 5,000 recent graduates, indicated that, among alumni who had a mentor, 64 percent said that person was a professor.

However, the study also uncovered a disparity between alumni of color and their white peers when it came to mentorship. Asked about their mentorship experience, only 47 percent of alumni of color said their mentor was a professor, compared with 72 percent of white alumni. Non-white alumni were more likely than white alumni to have relied on staff members, family, and friends to fulfill the mentor role during their college years.

Why the disparity in sources of advice?

“Having a mentor can make a big difference in students’ academic success—particularly for underrepresented minorities who often seek guidance on how to battle feelings of isolation on campus,” The Chronicle writes. Research suggests that “mentees seek mentors with similar experiences and backgrounds,” the Strada-Gallup report notes, adding that “minority students often seek mentors of the same race/ethnicity and find information more helpful when their mentor is of the same race/ethnicity.” Yet, students of color may find scarce options in the professoriate, given the underrepresentation of minorities in higher education and slow growth in hiring of Black faculty.

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