Higher Learning Research Communications

Digital Object Identifier



Melissa Villarreal, 0000-0003-0690-5612

Nnenia Campbell, 0000-0001-5441-2121


Objective: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the mentoring program of the Minority Scholars from Under-Represented Groups in Engineering and the Social Sciences (SURGE) Capacity in Disasters initiative, a pilot program that aimed to address the challenges that graduate students of color face in academic programs. SURGE promotes mentoring and professional development through its mentoring program for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) students.

Methods: Data collection involved distributing online surveys designed in Qualtrics to mentors and mentees five months after the SURGE program’s initiation. Separate surveys were created for student mentees and faculty mentors in order to collect feedback about the mentoring program. Mentees and mentors were also asked to rate their satisfaction with the specific individuals in their mentoring network so that the evaluation team could identify issues that arose across participants.

Results: We found that students had several motivations for and expectations from SURGE. A majority of the students found the SURGE mentoring program to have been at least somewhat valuable in helping them achieve these expectations. Nonetheless, students did identify a few challenges, namely lack of swift responsiveness from some mentors, not enough guidance on navigating the mentor-mentee relationship, and little to no in-person interaction. While half of the students mentioned that some individuals within their mentoring team were hard to reach, a majority remained satisfied with the overall responsiveness of their mentors. This suggests that the many-to-many mentoring model helped to ensure none were entirely dissatisfied on this measure.

Conclusions: These findings support previous research and show promise for mentoring as an effective intervention to the challenges that underrepresented students face in their academic programs and for their retention and representation, particularly in hazards and disaster-related fields.

Implications: Overall, given the unique barriers and challenges to retention for minority students in graduate programs, it is important to understand the mentoring needs of underrepresented students in order to provide the best possible help to them during what can be an extraordinarily difficult transition into academia. It is especially crucial to do this for underrepresented students in the fields of hazards and disaster research and practice, as their contributions and perspectives are needed to address social disparities and inequities.