Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Curriculum and Instruction

Major Professor

Ann Cranston-Gingras, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

J. Howard Johnston, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Elizabeth Shaunessy-Dedrick, Ph.D.

Committee Member

William S. Lang, Ph.D.


clustering analysis, doctoral attrition, faculty role models


Changes to the higher education landscape resulting from digital-age advancements in technology limit the opportunities for doctoral students and faculty to find one another for research and mentorship pairings as they once did when higher education was a wholly brick and mortar enterprise. Further, doctoral student attrition has remained unmoved at approximately 50% since the 1990s, with studies consistently citing the absence of mentoring (or doctoral students’ dissatisfaction with their mentors) as chief among the factors that contribute to the high rate of attrition. Some predict that the rate of doctoral attrition is as much as 20% higher for programs that are delivered online, hybrid, offsite or in accelerated formats.

The goal of this study was to test a computer-managed mentor matching system that repurposes clustering analysis (a common statistical tool), the Ideal Mentor Scale (a previously developed survey tool), and Classification of Instructional Program (CIP) codes (academic discipline taxonomy) together toward a new use: to uncover doctoral student/faculty mentor pairings based upon the way that each prioritizes the interpersonal attributes of a mentoring relationship and upon shared areas of research interest.

Following their survey participation, 52% percent of student participants enrolled in an Ed.D. program were matched with 14% of College of Education faculty participants based upon shared research interests. Twenty-seven percent of the student participants were matched with faculty participants on both research topic and prioritization of interpersonal attributes. Although the results indicated that the mentor matching system can be used to provide virtual introductions from which students and faculty might form mentoring relationships, enhancements to the design of the survey instruments would provide greater confidence in the quality of the matches produced. Given the significance of the study to doctoral student retention, progression and completion, further development of the mentor matching system is recommended.