This phenomenological study involves a unique, longitudinal assessment of the lived experiences of former undergraduate mentors (n=7) in light of their current experiences (i.e., career or advanced schooling). The objective of a phenomenological study is to engage in in-depth probing of a representative number of participants. Specifically, we followed up with graduates of the Nebraska STEM 4U (NE STEM 4U) intervention 3 years post-program, with the overall goal of describing the mentors’ experiences using the lens of their current experiences. This type of longitudinal perspective of mentoring is greatly lacking in the current literature. At the time of the interviews, all graduates were either in a STEM career or STEM-based graduate/professional program. Three major themes emerged: Career, inspiration, and challenges. Each of these themes was further broken down into sub-themes to describe the essence of the mentoring phenomenon for these individuals. This information may be beneficial for any programs that engage undergraduate students in mentoring.


Undergraduate, Mentors, Phenomenology, NE STEM 4U

Author Bio(s)

Kari L. Nelson is an Instructor of biological studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She is currently pursuing her PhD in science education and her research interest is improving college education for STEM majors, with an emphasis in DBER. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: karinelson@unomaha.edu.

Christine E. Cutucache is an Assistant Professor and Haddix Community Chair of Science at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She has two research interests; namely, DBER and cancer biology. She is also the founder of NE STEM 4U, a program in which undergraduate STEM majors provide after school STEM programming for youth in the Omaha, NE area. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: ccutucache@unomaha.edu.


The authors thank the Department of Biology and the College of Arts and Sciences at UNO for supporting this research project. Thanks also to all undergraduate and graduate student NE STEM 4U mentors. Thanks to Collective for Youth (Ms. Gwyn Williams and Ms. Megan Addison) as well as Dr. Chris Schaben, Science Supervisor at the Omaha Public School District for intellectual contributions, advice, and collaboration. Thanks to Julie Sigmon and Jeff Cole with the Nebraska Children’s Learning Center Network/Beyond School Bells for consulting and providing on-going advice on how to best connect with after school programs. The authors wish to thank The Sherwood Foundation, the NE NASA Space Grant, the UNO Office of Sponsored Programs and Research (C. Cutucache), and the Nebraska University Foundation for the funding of this project. No funders had a role in data collection, analysis, nor interpretation of data presented herein.

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