Home Student Retention Faculty Mentorship: a Tool for Student Retention
Faculty Mentorship: a Tool for Student Retention

Faculty Mentorship: a Tool for Student Retention


By Isaiah Vianese, Liberal Arts and Sciences Department Chair and Sandra Monteiro, Assistant Dean of Student Services, Mandl School: the College of Allied Health

Faculty mentorship at private sector institutions is a frontier of limited research but with great potential, especially when implemented as a formal school-wide mentorship program assessed with quantitative data. During 2017, Mandl School: the College of Allied Health in New York City ran a hands-on faculty mentorship program, while also tracking student retention rates over the course of the program.

The academic team theorized that providing comprehensive faculty leadership training through a mentorship program would also have a positive effect on overall student retention rates.

Essentially, retaining and training faculty helps an institution also retain students.

Defining mentorship

Mentorship has varied definitions. In its Faculty Mentoring Handbook, the University of Rhode Island explains its definition by stating, “Mentoring involves not only career guidance and support but also personal, psychological and social aspects. The need for formal mentor training and effective mentoring is increasingly recognized as a critical component in the success of new faculty and even mid-career faculty.” This definition shares a lot in common with Mandl’s mission. One of Mandl’s institutional goals is “to develop an outstanding faculty consisting of individuals who are highly qualified by experience and training, and who are dedicated to the individual development of their students.”

To enable the faculty to fulfill this goal at Mandl, the academic team sees mentorship as a team-based system of support that generates a culture of faculty appreciation, group problem-solving, proactive face-to-face interaction, and leadership training. This vision inspired the college’s Mentorship Project.

Mentorship Project overview

Like the academic departments at most colleges, the Mandl faculty is composed of both adjunct and full-time professors. To improve overall faculty satisfaction and student retention, Mandl recognizes that all faculty – especially adjunct faculty – need to feel engaged, supported, and part of a larger infrastructure that is at hand to sustain their efforts in providing quality education.

The Mentorship Project at Mandl occurred in two phases: an experimental pre-pilot, followed by a structured pilot of the project. Mandl runs on a trimester, with three 15-week terms in its academic year. The following phases were conducted over one term each.

Project phase 1: pre-pilot

With the goal of introducing and cultivating mentorship on campus, the academic team started phase 1: the pre-pilot of the Mentorship Project. This phase consisted of seven mentors working with two mentees each.

These faculty mentees were mostly new instructors, and the mentorship plan was a part of faculty onboarding.

The first step in the mentorship pre-pilot had each mentor meet with mentees on a biweekly basis for informal conversations addressing their concerns, including student attendance, classroom management, school policies and procedures, and general well-being and on-campus satisfaction. Though these meetings were informal, they allowed faculty to cultivate supportive relationships with peers, as well as have an accessible, immediate, and friendly outlet to consult when questions arose.

Outcome of phase 1: pre-pilot

Over the course of this first phase of the project, the academic team observed the following positive outcomes:

  • Increased communication among faculty
  • Quicker resolution of student concerns
  • Overall boost in faculty morale and appreciation

These outcomes inspired a more focused approach, which led to phase 2: the mentorship pilot, a more structured implementation to mentorship, as well as a quantitative analysis of its effects on student retention.

Project phase 2: pilot program

Phase 2 sought to provide a more structured approach to faculty support by working with faculty in two specific academic departments at the college: Medical Assisting and Dental Assisting. These departments had the most significant student retention concerns at Mandl because of the size of each department. As in the previous phase, instructors worked in groups with a mentor group leader to report student issues, including attendance and behavior.

Mentors met with mentees on a weekly basis to collect data on student absences, academic concerns, and discipline issues. Mentors and mentees also followed up with students of concern via email and phone. When students returned, they met with an advisor who addressed attendance and academic issues before they returned to classes. These meetings, coupled with phone calls and academic advisement, created a network of support for both the students and faculty.

This pilot ran from week 3 to week 13 of the 15-week term. Mentors conducted a workshop for mentees on leadership and teamwork in the classroom during the semester, and the mentees were also recognized for their hard work at the end of the term with a certificate.

Mentorship project phase 2: examining the data

Over the course of phase 2 of the Mentorship Project, student absences and returns were tracked week-by-week for the participating Medical Assisting and Dental Assisting programs. Reasons for student absences were mainly child care, illness, school holidays or closings, personal and health issues, and travel challenges.

For the mentorship pilot, the faculty tracked 247 Medical Assisting students and 40 Dental Assisting students, totaling 287 tracked for the project. Students were tracked on a week-by-week basis from week 3 to week 13. Students who were absent for an entire week of class were contacted via phone, email, or text. Then faculty reported whether or not the missing students returned the following week, as well as new students who were also missing. This reporting was done via paper reports discussed at the brief weekly mentorship meetings.

The chart below reflects the data collected over the course of this pilot.

Mentorship Chart

Over the course of the term, some weeks (namely week 6 through week 8) saw an escalation in absences and decline in returns. Some reasons for this escalation may be the arrival of summer break in secondary public schools, meaning most students who were parents found challenges in getting child care or coming to campus.

Overall, however, the return rates of the tracked students dramatically improved by week 13, as students prepared for final exams and the conclusion of the semester.

Summary of results

At the conclusion of the mentorship pilot, the academic team calculated the data for the Medical Assisting (MA) and Dental Assisting (DA) students tracked by the program. For the spring 2017 mentorship pilot, the MA and DA retention rate improved to 87.4 percent. That means out of the 287 students tracked, 250 students returned for classes the following semester.

This retention rate is interesting when compared to the overall retention rate reported by the college in the previous year.

For the year June 30, 2015, to July 1, 2016, Mandl’s overall retention rate for all programs was 76 percent, meaning that the spring 2017 mentorship pilot MA and DA retention rate marked an 11.4 percent increase above the overall retention rate reported by the college.

Though it strains the comparison to evaluate the overall student retention rate for an entire year with the retention rate of just programs for one semester, the dramatic increase in the MA and DA retention rate was considered a great success. Such a significant change in the retention rate for the tracked programs was enough to encourage the administration to expand the Mentorship Program campus-wide. As Mandl is a small school, the college felt that retaining more students made an impact and was worth the effort.


Overall, the Mandl Mentorship Pilot Program had a positive impact on the college community. Including:

  • Increased sense of community among faculty
  • Closer working relationships between administrators and faculty
  • Higher utilization of student resources, improving student outcomes

The hands-on approach was to the academic team’s benefit, as Mandl only occupies one campus. Faculty and administrations were able to address concerns one-on-one with students and faculty, giving personal attention to the issues at hand. Reaching out to students via emails, texting, and calls improved retention rates overall in both Medical Assisting and Dental Assisting programs.

Over the course of the mentorship pilot, the following benefits were observed:

  • Students expressed confidence about finishing their academic program.
  • Students in danger of withdrawal were guided towards resources that eventually retained them.
  • Student satisfaction within the programs also improved, as reflected in student satisfaction surveys conducted on a semester-by-semester basis.
  • Students felt supported because of open communication with faculty and administrators.
  • Improved retention rates also had a positive impact on college revenues.
  • Long-standing faculty developed leadership skills, became more independent; many of them have become mentors to new faculty.

However, there were challenges as well, including:

  • Some long-standing faculty members were resistant to this project, including the paperwork involved.
  • Some adjunct faculty found time management difficult for this additional responsibility, especially as they were not paid for the additional work.
  • Students could be difficult to track, and they would not always return when promised.

Despite these challenges, the Mandl faculty and administrators embraced the Mentorship Project and its many successes on campus.

Future plans

Mandl is currently conducting an expanded version of the Mentorship Project to include all academic programs at Mandl. Via the college Retention Committee, the project plans to become more interdepartmental, inviting administrators outside of academia for feedback and recommendations. Overall, Mandl is pleased with its progress through the Mentorship Project and will continue to invest in the program’s expansion and development.


NSF ADVANCE Program at the University of Rhode Island (2005). Faculty Mentoring Handbook. Retrieved from: https://oied.ncsu.edu/divweb/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Faculty_Mentoring_Handbook_pdf-1-1.pdf

Isaiah Vianese

ISAIAH VIANESE was educated at Elmira College and Missouri State University. His creative writing and scholarship have appeared in a variety of publications, including “Blue Collar Review,” “The Fourth River,” “Lambda Literary,” “Moon City Review,” “Rattle,” and “The Research Guide to American Literature.” Before coming to Mandl, he taught at colleges and universities in the Midwest and New York. He is currently the Liberal Arts and Sciences Department Chair at the Mandl School: the College of Allied Health in New York City.

Contact Information: Isaiah Vianese // Liberal Arts and Sciences Department Chair // Mandl School: the College of Allied Health // 212-247 3434 // ivianese@mandl.edu \\ https://mandl.edu/

Sandra Monteiro

SANDRA MONTEIRO was educated at Dhempe College of Arts and Sciences and Goa University in India. She has been teaching English for nearly 23 years with international teaching experience in India, Thailand, China, and the United States. She is currently the Assistant Dean of Student Services at Mandl, where she also teaches English courses.

Contact Information:Sandra Monteiro // Assistant Dean of Student Services // Mandl School: the College of Allied Health // 212-247 3434 // smonteiro@mandl.edu // https://mandl.edu/


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