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Mentoring at Minority Serving Institutions: Theory, Design, Practice, and Impact

reviewed by Anne-Marie Núñez & Tyler Hallmark - July 24, 2019

coverTitle: Mentoring at Minority Serving Institutions: Theory, Design, Practice, and Impact
Author(s): Jeton McClinton, David S. B. Mitchell, Tyrell Carr, Mark A. Melton, & Gerunda B. Hughes (Eds.)
Publisher: Information Age Publishing, Charlotte
ISBN: 1641132779, Pages: 440, Year: 2018
Search for book at Amazon.com

Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) play a critical role in providing a gateway into the higher education sector for students who might not otherwise enroll, both in the United States and globally (Hallmark & Gasman, 2018). All higher education institutions could stand to learn lessons from MSIs about how to serve students who have traditionally been underserved in U.S. postsecondary education (Conrad & Gasman, 2015). However, many of the strategies that MSIs employ to serve their students remain understudied (National Academy of Science, Engineering, & Medicine [NASEM], 2018).

Mentoring at Minority Serving Institutions presents the first edited volume dedicated to examining how successful mentoring programs and practices to serve and support historically underrepresented students and faculty have been designed and implemented at these institutions. Not only does this book shed light on mentoring at MSIs, but it highlights several important sub-topics, including graduate student mentoring, peer and communal mentoring, and mentoring for those in multiple roles (e.g., student, faculty, etc.). Furthermore, the authors of the chapters in this edited volume primarily work in MSIs, a quality that helps to center the voices, experiences, and expertise of faculty, staff, and students in these institutions. The MSIs represented include 2-year and 4-year public and private institutions from across the country.

Notably, the book targets faculty and practitioners at MSIs with the goal of serving as a resource for those who are on the ground seeking to create or revise mentoring practices to support all personnel at these institutions. Indeed, one strength of this book is its clear advice for practitioners involved in programs to advance the success of diverse personnel, though some chapters provide more distinct recommendations than others. Several of the chapters are quite detailed in their descriptions of mentoring programs, down to the daily and weekly activities in some cases, a quality that advances this book’s practice-based purpose.

The book is divided into six sections, addressing a full range of stakeholders in mentoring. The first focuses on gender-based mentoring programs, including those that focus on women and men of color. The second focuses on mentoring programs that target graduate students, an important contribution given that MSIs’ work with graduate students has historically been understudied. The chapter by Babette Benkin and Bryan Rodríguez about a mentoring program at California State University Long Beach addresses recruitment, retention, and post-baccalaureate activities, and presents a comprehensive view of institutional characteristics and organizational conditions, such as on- and off-campus partnerships, that can hinder or support such a mentoring program. This chapter provides insight as to how campuses can build resource centers for graduate students.

The third, and by far the largest, section focuses on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) mentoring programs. Given the critical role of MSIs in producing a disproportionate share of STEM graduates from historically underrepresented groups in higher education in the U.S., this focus is critical (NASEM, 2018). The chapter by Mark Melton and colleagues addresses how one historically Black university, Saint Augustine’s University, leveraged four National Science Foundation grants to expand diversity in undergraduate and graduate retention in a variety of science and engineering disciplines. The chapter examines and compares how a variety of mentoring strategies, including peer mentoring, contributed to these goals and illustrates how garnering external funding can build capacity to address the needs of historically underserved students. The subsequent chapter by Margie Vela and colleagues addresses the understudied area of peer mentoring in STEM programs, providing a thorough assessment of a program with innovative mentor pairing methods.

The fourth section emphasizes frameworks for understanding mentoring programs, including culturally responsive and collectivist approaches (Conrad & Gasman, 2015). The chapter by Leigh Remy and colleagues from a Hispanic serving institution stands out in particular as the authors provide a well-organized framework for starting a university-wide mentoring initiative that roots all programmatic decisions in existing literature, including thorough justifications for each phase of implementation. This framework may be useful for all types of institutions as it aims to develop a campus-wide culture of mentoring, and may be particularly beneficial for students of color, first-generation students, and other underrepresented groups.

The fifth section highlights student-focused mentoring programs. The chapter written by Tiese Roxbury focuses on a mentoring program in the understudied arena of athletics at a historically Black college in the Mid-Atlantic. The chapter highlights how engaging faculty as mentors for student athletes may serve to forge critical cross-campus relationships and increase both in-class and after-class engagement for student athletes who otherwise might not engage due to stereotype threat. This chapter is particularly timely as other studies have recognized the low graduation rates of Black student athletes broadly (e.g., Harper, 2018).

The sixth section focuses on teaching education and school administration mentoring programs. In particular, the chapter by Mawhinney and Petchauer expands the concept of “othermothering,” culturally grounded in Black feminism (Collins, 2000), toward a non-binary “otherparenting” mentoring approach (p. 384) and discusses how “otherparenting” served as an informal strategy in a mentoring program at an HBCU for pre-service teachers. Coupled with formal mentoring strategies such as preparation for the teacher licensing exam, “otherparenting” involved more intangible care and advocacy for students, including flexibility on the part of instructors that allowed students to handle financial challenges in their program, such as allowing one student to have their teaching internship be scheduled close to their own home, but a three-hour round trip drive from the instructor’s home. At the same time, the analysis in this chapter features an honest discussion of burnout that personnel at MSIs may experience, including how instructors in this mentoring program handled burnout and how they set boundaries around their time. This is an important consideration as personnel at MSIs are often expected to support students with fewer resources than those available at other institutions (NASEM, 2018).

The book could be enhanced in some ways. First and foremost, the title of the book implies that it addresses all MSIs, and, in the introduction, the volume’s editors recognize four types of MSIs: Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs). Yet, the chapter authors across the entire book solely address mentoring within the institutional contexts of HBCUs and HSIs. To inform recommendations for practitioners across the full range of MSIs, mentoring in several other MSI types deserves recognition. These institutional types include not only TCUs and AANAPISIs, but also Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian-Serving Institutions (ANNHIs), Native American-Serving Non-Tribal Institutions (NASNTIs), and Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs). Without addressing these other types of MSIs, the book may have been more appropriately titled Mentoring at HBCUs and HSIs.

Second, the authors of several chapters do not fully address the institutional characteristics of the sites where the mentoring programs operate. This quality makes it difficult to discern how program implementation and research findings concerning mentoring are distinct in MSIs compared with those in other institutional contexts. More research conducted in MSIs needs to address the specific organizational contexts of MSIs and how these conditions affect capacity building, research, policy, and practice to serve historically underrepresented students in higher education (e.g., Garcia, Núñez, & Sansone, in press; NASEM, 2018).

Despite these limitations, several chapters throughout the book provide valuable takeaways, particularly for practitioners working at MSIs. Additionally, the wide range of qualitative and quantitative methods, as well as programmatic contexts, presented throughout the volume provide a range of perspectives to inform future work in this area. Moving forward, future research should emphasize institutional contexts and utilize organizations as the units of analysis (e.g., Garcia et al., in press) so that MSIs and non-MSIs alike may better grasp how to interpret research findings, adapt and implement recommendations, and generate sustainable mentoring programs in specific institutional conditions. More research is also needed in order to understand how the MSI context specifically affects students of color and what this looks like in different MSI types, especially those beyond the HBCU and HSI contexts. Given the understudied and critical role of staff in diversity efforts (Hurtado, Alvarez, Guillermo-Wann, Cuellar, & Arellano, 2012), future research might also expand the consideration of how staff implement and sustain mentoring programs at MSIs.


Collins, P. H. (2000). Black feminist thought (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

Conrad, C. & Gasman, M. (2015). Educating and diverse nation: Lessons from minority-serving institutions. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.

García, G. A., Núñez, A.-M., & Sansone, V. (in press). Toward a multidimensional conceptual framework for understanding “servingness” in Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs): A synthesis of the research. Review of Educational Research.

Hallmark, T., & Gasman, M. (2018). MSIs across the globe: Laying the foundation for future research. Higher Education, 75, 287–298.

Harper, S. R. (2018). Black male student-athletes and racial inequities in NCAA Division I college sports: 2018 edition. Los Angeles, CA: University of Southern California, Race and Equity Center. Retrieved from https://race.usc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/2018_Sports_Report.pdf

Hurtado, S., Alvarez, C. L., Guillermo-Wann, C., Cuellar, M., & Arellano, L. (2012). A model for diverse learning environments: The scholarship on creating and assessing conditions for student success. Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research, 27, 41–122.

National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM). (2018). Minority serving institutions: America's underutilized resource for strengthening the STEM workforce. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from https://www.nap.edu/download/25257

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: July 24, 2019
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22995, Date Accessed: 1/25/2022 2:49:41 PM

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About the Author
  • Anne-Marie Núñez
    Ohio State University
    E-mail Author
    ANNE-MARIE NÚÑEZ is Professor of Educational Studies in the Higher Education and Student Affairs program at The Ohio State University. Much of her research has addressed college access and success of Hispanic, first-generation, migrant, and English Learner students and the role of Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) in providing postsecondary educational opportunities for historically underserved groups. She co-edited Hispanic-Serving Institutions: Advancing Research and Transformative Practice (2015), an International Latino Book Award winner. More recently, she is a co-author of a forthcoming article in Review of Educational Research that advances a multidimensional framework to conceptualize “servingness” in HSIs (García, Núñez, & Sansone, in press). In addition, she worked with the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) to co-author the 2018 report Minority Serving Institutions: America's Underutilized Resource for Strengthening the STEM Workforce.
  • Tyler Hallmark
    Ohio State University
    E-mail Author
    TYLER HALLMARK is a PhD student in the Higher Education and Student Affairs program at The Ohio State University. His research interests include social stratification and equity and institutional diversity and culture. His most recent publications have centered on the role of MSIs in global arenas, including an article in Higher Education and a chapter in A Primer on Minority Serving Institutions. His current research utilizes sociological approaches to understand college access and persistence, particularly across place and space.
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