Predictors of close faculty−student relationships and mentorship in higher education: Findings from the Gallup−Purdue Index

Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences / April 2020

College students’ supportive relationships with mentors—professors, advisors, and other caring adults to whom students turn as they develop their interests and career paths—are critical to their development and academic success. The current study sought to explore factors that promote or impede the formation of positive mentor–student relationships during college using a large, nationally representative sample of 5,684 college graduates from the Gallup–Purdue Index. Linear regression models revealed that first‐generation college students, as well as students attending larger institutions, rated faculty and other college staff as less caring and supportive, and were less able to identify a supportive mentoring relationship during college. Greater engagement at college, including participation in faculty research, academic internships, long‐term projects, and extracurricular clubs or activities, was associated with stronger perceptions of faculty support and mentorship while in college. Interestingly, demographic characteristics moderated the effects of some extracurricular activities on students’ experiences. For example, participants with more student loans showed a stronger positive association between participation in long‐term academic projects and perceptions of faculty support, relative to students with few loans. These findings have important implications for policies designed to foster sustained and meaningful faculty–student relationships for all students, including those traditionally marginalized on college campuses.