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An exploration of graduate student peer mentorship, social connectedness and well-being across four disciplines of study

Elizabeth Oddone Paolucci (Department of Community Health Sciences and Department of Surgery, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada)
Michele Jacobsen (Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada)
Lorelli Nowell (Faculty of Nursing, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada)
Georgina Freeman (W21C Research and Innovation, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada)
Liza Lorenzetti (Faculty of Social Work, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada)
Tracey Clancy (Faculty of Nursing, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada)
Alessandra Paolucci (Faculty of Arts, Department of Psychology, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada)
Helen Pethrick (Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada)
Diane L. Lorenzetti (Health Sciences Library, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada and Department of Community Health Sciences, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada)

Studies in Graduate and Postdoctoral Education

ISSN: 2398-4686

Article publication date: 10 February 2021

Issue publication date: 2 August 2021

449

Abstract

Purpose

Student mental well-being is a matter of increasing concern on university campuses around the world. Social, psychological, academic and career aspects of graduate learning are enriched through peer mentorship. Peer-mentoring experiences and the impacts of these relationships on the mental well-being of graduate students remain underexplored in the scholarship of teaching and learning. The purpose of this study was to explore how engagement in formal and informal peer mentorship, as described by students across four academic disciplines, impacts the social connectedness and well-being of graduate students.

Design/methodology/approach

A convergent mixed methods research design was used, with quantitative and qualitative data gathered in parallel to gain a comprehensive, corroborated and integrated understanding of graduate students’ perspectives and experiences with peer mentorship. Online survey and interview data were collected from graduate thesis-based master’s EdD and PhD students in education, medicine, nursing and social work. The data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and thematic analysis.

Findings

The authors found a commonality of graduate student experiences across disciplines with respect to the diverse psychosocial impacts of graduate peer mentorship. Peer-mentoring relationships offered mentees emotional support, motivation and a sense of community and offered mentors opportunities for self-development and gratification.

Originality/value

This research is unique in its in-depth exploration of the interdisciplinary perspectives and experiences of graduate students from Education, Nursing, Medicine and Social Work. While further research is needed to explore the implementation of structural approaches to support the development of peer-mentoring relationships in graduate education, the multidisciplinary focus and depth and breadth of this inquiry suggest the potential transferability of the study findings to other disciplines and academic settings. The findings from this study further highlight the need for strategic activation of existing program resources to foster greater connectedness and well-being among graduate students.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The research team gratefully acknowledges the contributions from all of the graduate student participants from the University of Calgary who shared their experiences and insights on peer mentoring. The authors appreciate the contribution and support of Kimberley Andrews, Master’s graduate student in the Faculty of Nursing, University of Calgary, who assisted with the literature review and organized the relevant papers by theme.

This research was funded in part by a Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) Grant from the Taylor Institute, University of Calgary, as well as a Health Science and Medical Education Research and Innovation Grant from the Office of Health and Medical Education Scholarship (OHMES).

Citation

Oddone Paolucci, E., Jacobsen, M., Nowell, L., Freeman, G., Lorenzetti, L., Clancy, T., Paolucci, A., Pethrick, H. and Lorenzetti, D.L. (2021), "An exploration of graduate student peer mentorship, social connectedness and well-being across four disciplines of study", Studies in Graduate and Postdoctoral Education, Vol. 12 No. 1, pp. 73-88. https://doi.org/10.1108/SGPE-07-2020-0041

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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