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Promoting professional identity, motivation, and persistence: Benefits of an informal mentoring program for female undergraduate students


  • Paul R Hernandez
  • Brittany Bloodhart
  • Rebecca T Barnes
  • Amanda S Adams
  • Sandra M Clinton
  • Ilana Pollack
  • Elaine Godfrey
  • Melissa Burt
  • Emily V Fischer


Women are underrepresented in a number of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. Limited diversity in the development of the STEM workforce has negative implications for scientific innovation, creativity, and social relevance. The current study reports the first-year results of the PROmoting Geoscience Research, Education, and SuccesS (PROGRESS) program, a novel theory-driven informal mentoring program aimed at supporting first- and second-year female STEM majors. Using a prospective, longitudinal, multi-site (i.e., 7 universities in Colorado/Wyoming Front Range & Carolinas), propensity score matched design, we compare mentoring and persistence outcomes for women in and out of PROGRESS (N = 116). Women in PROGRESS attended an off-site weekend workshop and gained access to a network of volunteer female scientific mentors from on- and off-campus (i.e., university faculty, graduate students, and outside scientific professionals). The results indicate that women in PROGRESS had larger networks of developmental mentoring relationships and were more likely to be mentored by faculty members and peers than matched controls. Mentoring support from a faculty member benefited early-undergraduate women by strengthening their scientific identity and their interest in earth and environmental science career pathways. Further, support from a faculty mentor had a positive indirect impact on women’s scientific persistence intentions, through strengthened scientific identity development. These results imply that first- and second- year undergraduate women’s mentoring support networks can be enhanced through provision of protégé training and access to more senior women in the sciences willing to provide mentoring support.

Suggested Citation

  • Paul R Hernandez & Brittany Bloodhart & Rebecca T Barnes & Amanda S Adams & Sandra M Clinton & Ilana Pollack & Elaine Godfrey & Melissa Burt & Emily V Fischer, 2017. "Promoting professional identity, motivation, and persistence: Benefits of an informal mentoring program for female undergraduate students," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 12(11), pages 1-16, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:plo:pone00:0187531
    DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0187531

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    2. Christopher P. Scheitle & Ellory Dabbs & Riley Darragh, 2021. "Graduate Students’ Identification With Science: Differences by Demographics, Experiences, and Discipline," SAGE Open, , vol. 11(4), pages 21582440211, November.
    3. Southwell, Kenona & Topp, David & McCall, Christine & Ludiker, Keara & Runco, Lauren & MacDermid Wadsworth, Shelley, 2022. "Focus Forward Fellowship: Evaluation of a program for women student service members and veterans," Evaluation and Program Planning, Elsevier, vol. 95(C).
    4. Tang-Ping Chen & Ku-Yuan Lee & Pegdwende Moise Kabre & Chi-Ming Hsieh, 2020. "Impacts of Educational Agritourism on Students’ Future Career Intentions: Evidence from Agricultural Exchange Programs," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 12(22), pages 1-19, November.

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