Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Educational Leadership

Major Professor

Amber D. Dumford, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Thomas Miller, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Judith Ponticell, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jennifer Schneider, Ph.D.


institutional attachment, peer belonging, peer mentor, sense of belonging


Community college students are less likely to complete their educational objectives than are students who attend 4-year institutions. Students who opt out of the recommended remedial coursework in the foundational subjects of reading, writing, and math may be further disadvantaged when attempting college level coursework. As one way to reduce this disadvantage, peer mentoring’s positive influence on retention, student development, and success in college is well-documented in higher education literature. Additionally, an increasing number of research articles espouse students’ sense of belonging as a critical factor in these same areas. What the extant literature fails to closely examine are the ways in which peer mentoring influences the two dimensions of sense of belonging in college—peer belonging and institutional attachment.

This is a descriptive study designed to explore students’ perceptions and experiences surrounding the ways in which the peer mentor relationships affected their sense of belonging in college. Using exemplar methodology, I selected mentees who exhibited at least one of the criteria of well-mentored students—students who were mentored in accordance with the college’s QEP requirements. The findings in this study suggest sense of belonging was affected by peer mentor interventions. Semi-structured interviews with the well-mentored students in this study suggest when peer mentors behaved in accordance with the exemplar criteria, sense of belonging was improved.

With few exceptions, all three participants credited their peer mentors with having influenced their sense of belonging. This study sheds light on the underexplored association between peer mentoring and sense of belonging. The findings in this study suggest peer mentoring is an effective strategy to influence sense of belonging in the areas of connectedness, engagement, and transition. Peer mentors serve as facilitators of sense of belonging when they bridge academic and social aspects of college life for students whom they mentor. The experience gained in this study may be informative to the design, evaluation, or redesign of peer mentor programs at other higher education institutions.