Mentoring supports professional success in a myriad of fields; in the physical sciences, mentoring increases the retention of diverse groups of students. While physics education has made progress in classifying the availability and structural components related to mentoring programs, little is known about the qualitative nature of mentoring relationships. This article draws from frameworks in science identity and belongs to analyze the nature of relationships in the mentoring program offered by the Sundial Project at Arizona State University, which aims to help new students with diverse backgrounds succeed in physics and related majors. To provide insight into mentoring relationships, we analyze over 150 reports submitted by mentors and mentees in a near-peer mentoring program.
Mentoring groups enjoyed positive rapport and often remarked upon becoming friends. As such, mentoring relationships provided mentees with both psychosocial and academic support. Mentoring supported students to deal with a wide variety of topics, ranging from academic to personal, according to the needs of individual mentees. Moreover, outcomes of students in the mentoring program were favorable; the mean GPA of participating mentees was 3.49 for their first college semester.
Mentors acted both as guides who shared information and as caring friends who providing psychosocial support, including normalizing struggle. These connections supported students to develop a sense of belonging and positive science identities.