(87a) Peer Mentorship Via Bridge (Building Relationships for Identity Development and Growth in Engineering) Program at University of Illinois at Chicago during Pandemic
AIChE Annual Meeting
Monday, November 15, 2021 - 3:55pm to 4:20pm
However, while previous studies have examined the impact of such programs on retention and engineering identity, the impact of these programs in a virtual learning atmosphere has not been as readily investigated. To examine this, a student-led peer mentorship program was instituted at the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) at the start of the Fall 2020 year, coinciding with the start of a nearly complete transition to virtual learning.
To implement the program, a survey was sent out to upperclassmen students (in their final two years of undergraduate study) within the chemical engineering department at UIC. In addition to assessing interest, this survey also asked for pronouns, year in school, and professional/extracurricular interests of the potential mentors. Respondents to the survey were then asked to attend a brief training session in the summer to go over their responsibilities as a mentor. At this time, a survey was sent out to incoming freshmen assessing their pronouns and professional/extracurricular interests. Mentors and mentees were then matched by similarities in these two parameters.
Mentors were encouraged to reach out to their mentees after the matching had occurred, and were instructed to check-in and answer any questions that arose throughout the semester. After a semester of the program, a survey on engineering identity, belongingness in the engineering community, as well as involvement in engineering events were distributed to both mentors and mentees.
A second follow-up survey will be conducted at the end of the school year. A preliminary analysis of the data has shown that while no mentees felt like part of the chemical engineering community at the start of the program, 45% did by the end of one semester of the program. Mentors have expressed that their role has improved their communication skills greatly, and prepared them for being a better mentor later in their career.
Overall, this program has been a platform where both the mentors and mentees have benefitted. The hope is that this program can be implemented in other universities as well to allow more students to identify as engineers, thrive as engineering students, and prepare them for their future engineering discipline careers.