With the primary objective of attracting and retaining students from underrepresented backgrounds in the sciences, evaluation of one institution’s program has been ongoing over the past three years. Interviews with mentors in the program followed by focus groups conducted with mentees reveal key factors that shape undergraduate students’ research experiences. In the present study, attention is given to data gathered from 15 mentees in the program, the majority of whom have enrolled in community colleges, represent low socioeconomic backgrounds, and are nontraditional students. The results from focus groups with the mentees provide information on the benefits of participating in the program, characteristics of good mentors, challenges to the mentoring relationship, and the effects of underrepresented status on pursuit of advanced degrees. Comparisons of mentees’ comments about the mentoring relationship with mentors’ comments reveal similar themes and patterns while also demonstrating interesting differences. The qualitative findings are also juxtaposed with participants’ responses on the Survey of Undergraduate Research Experiences. Taken together, the data enhance our understanding of the experiences of underrepresented students in faculty-mentored research programs and highlight challenges and perspectives of students who are transferring to the university from a community college.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2016 A. Prunuske et al. CBE—Life Sciences Education.