Dr. Gregory Ulferts, Dr. Terry Howard, Dr. Renady Hightower University of Detroit Mercy
Integrating Alumni Mentors into the Study Abroad Course Component
In Winter term, 2017 our international business class and program began to examine the impact of alumni mentoring on student and alumni participants. Our search of the literature showed that very little research had been done in this area. Data collected from our pilot study revealed that both students and alumni reported positive benefits from their mentoring interaction. Using soft-ware analysis, the following common themes were identified. For alumni mentor- the theme was: 1) common experience; 2) deepened relationship; 3) personal growth; 4) leadership growth; and 5) connection (Ulferts, Howard, Hightower, 2018). For mentee’s the following themes were: communication; 2) professional networking; 3) long-term friendships; 4) leadership skills; 5: personal growth; and 6) future alumni (Ulferts, Howard, Hightower, 2018). Based on the data collected, and qualitative themes identified above, we concluded that alumni mentors in the international study abroad class/ program results in “Value Added” to both the alumni and student participants. Further, this “Value Added” was observed to be an outcome produced from the alumni involvement and engagement with student participants during the “In Country interaction and experience” in the study abroad class/ program. Taking the above into account, and upon examination of alumni and student recommendations, we are now working towards developing a “Best Practice” in the context of Alumni Mentoring in International Study Abroad Class Room/ Program. The next phase of our qualitative study will entail the following. First, a syllabus will be developed for alumni mentor participants that will explain expectations of alumni mentors. Direction will be given as to how to meet accountability for their engagement with student mentee’s during In Country experience. Second, the alumni mentor syllabus will be included in the study aboard syllabus for student mentees to inform them of the alumni mentors role in the study abroad class/ program. Third, alumni mentor and mentee’ assignments will be done earlier on in the study abroad class so that each participant can meet and establish rapport prior to leaving the U. S. Also, alumni mentor- mentee discussion time can be addressed along with the significance of such discussion during the In-Country experience. Fourth, alumni mentors will receive training, mentoring on how to mentor. For example, training will entail direction and support on how to structure your time with the mentee while In Country. Last, the next phase of the research project will examine how to increase alumni engagement in the study abroad class, which is a non- traditional learning environment through various means such as their input in the design of the international study abroad class/ program. Finally, a survey will be created to measure changes in attitude, perception of alumni mentor and student mentees to develop best practice.