Peer Mentoring Program to Improve Psychosocial and Academic Student Support and Positively Impact Geoscience Undergraduate Success

Monday 4:30pm-6:00pm Quad
Poster Session Part of Monday Poster Session


Nicole Bonuso, California State University-Fullerton
Virginia Isava, California State University-Fullerton
Student retention of California State University, Fullerton (CSUF) Geological Sciences majors from year 1 to 2 fell 55.6% in 2018. In addition, geosciences remain one of the least diverse STEM fields in terms of gender, race, and ethnicity. As a Hispanic-Serving Institution comprised of ~60% female students, CSUF is uniquely positioned to increase participation of women and underrepresented minorities (URM) in geoscience, but can only do so by building student support. To address this, we developed a peer mentoring program as a new course offered for freshmen and transfer students in their second semester at CSUF. This program builds a bridge between student's introduction to the university and their integration into the Geological Sciences department through major-specific core classes.
Our program goals are to: 1) develop a welcoming learning environment where students can share their ideas and concerns; 2) provide academic and career readiness support; 3) quantitatively and qualitatively assess the effectiveness of our program through surveys and interviews; and 4) identify and publish evidence-based best practices. We hypothesize that developing an actively inclusive program and matching student peer-mentor pairs will foster 1) a greater sense of belonging in CSUF's geoscience and broader STEM communities, 2) a more positive science identity, and 3) an overall increase in geoscience students retained in the major.
We ran a primary pilot of this program in spring 2022. Results of this pilot indicated that while mentee participants benefitted from the program, mentors required additional training and support. The second pilot of this program began in fall 2022 with a bi-weekly training seminar for mentors, followed by a revamped peer mentoring curriculum in spring 2023. We are in the process of analyzing the results of the second pilot, and aim to have the peer mentoring course added to the university's course catalog in fall 2023.