Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Retaining underrepresented (e.g. first-generation and ethnic minority) students remains a challenge within higher education. Fostering a sense of belonging on campus is key to successfully retaining and increasing academic performance among underrepresented students. Peer-to-peer and faculty mentoring provides opportunities to form social bonds and potentially increase belonging. Mentoring may also connect students from underrepresented backgrounds with campus resources, thus contributing to their knowledge and utilization of campus resources, or self-advocacy. I recruited 95 racial minority and first-generation participants. They reported self-advocacy, belonging, grade point average (GPA), and retention intentions. I test whether participation in a mentoring program (versus control) operated through belonging to influence GPA and retention. There was a marginally significant effect of participating in a mentoring program on belonging. Participating in a mentoring program was positively associated with GPA, but unassociated with retention. As predicted, belonging was positively related to retention. There was a significant indirect effect of participating in a mentorship program on retention (but not GPA) that operated through belonging. Future research should investigate the association between participation in mentoring programs and belonging to determine whether this is a causal association of whether a third variable explains this relationship.

Keywords: first-generation, men of color, women of color, belonging uncertainty, retention, GPA

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Creative Commons License
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