The Ideal Mentor: A Qualitative Study on Underrepresented Students' Perspectives on Mentoring Relationships in Engineering

Sergio Armendariz, University of Texas at El Paso


Engineering stands as one of the disciplines with the highest rates of student attrition, which is exacerbated by the misrepresentation of women and racial/ethnic minorities (Roy 2019). As a response, multiple universities have launched successful initiatives to recruit women and racial/ethnic minorities into engineering degrees, but have continued to fail in retaining that same student demographic. Mentoring relationships have been regarded as an efficient strategy to mitigate the rates of attrition in engineering degrees (Wilson et al. 2012). However, mentorship in engineering is likewise lacking in diversity, and positive outcomes of mentorship are not universal. Nonetheless, successful mentoring relationships do play a key factor in the retainment and development of future engineers, but literature on mentoring relationships in engineering rarely includes the voices of underrepresented students, let alone their thoughts on what makes a mentoring relationship successful. This thesis seeks to address this issue; provide a phenomenological understanding of what underrepresented engineering students consider their ideal mentor to be like. A total of 10 students were given semi-structured interviews where themes of engineering experiences and identity, gender and ethnic diversity, mentorship, and the COVID-19 pandemic were addressed. Results show that participants value autonomy, occupational experience, and consistent communication as more valuable assets over gender/ethnic homogeneity in mentorship. This is not to say that participants of this study did not see any value in homogeneity, or diversity in engineering education and occupations; participants endorse these traits, but place more value on the practical and occupational essence of engineering. In this sense, the ideal mentor is the one that allows mentees to be engineers.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Armendariz, Sergio, "The Ideal Mentor: A Qualitative Study on Underrepresented Students' Perspectives on Mentoring Relationships in Engineering" (2022). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI29211644.