Sidra Tareen - Feb 6, 2019

4 Steps to Improving Your Retention Strategy with Peer-Mentorship

In our recent webinar, “Prioritizing Peer Mentorship in Your Retention Strategy” Mentor Collective Co-founder and CEO, Jackson Boyar, sat down with Aaron Aure, Executive Director for Retention and Enrollment and Darren Ward, Student Advisor from the University of Wisconsin, Stout to discuss how UW-Stout is prioritizing peer-mentorship in their retention strategy.

When Aure joined UW-Stout, there was no clear ownership around retention. After a multi-year, downward trend, Aure decided to create a retention strategy “toolkit” focused on measurable outcomes. Aure outlined his 4 step process:

1. Invest in data

As the pressure to show student outcomes rises, universities must assess the student success interventions that they are currently datainvesting in. As a first step to owning retention, Aure explored what data on retention was already available at UW-Stout, asking question such as: which students were staying, which weren’t?

As a caveat, Aure shared, “Higher Ed has relied too heavily on trend data and has less experience with predictive data. Although it is important to know how you compare relative to the last 3-5 years from a historical or trend perspective, the more actionable information is how do we think this group or individual will do in the next year?


2. Evaluate on research, scale & cost

Evaluate the data you’ve gathered to determine if the programs are fulfilling their goal of increasing retention. At UW-Stout, Aure bulbwanted to invest in a strategy that was supported by literature as a High-Impact Practice (HIP), scalable and not an “exorbitant amount of dollars."

Traditional mentorship, for 25-30 students existed at UW-Stout, but was not currently serving enough students. Ultimately, Aure chose to prioritize peer-mentorship in his retention strategy because with the support of Mentor Collective, he saw peer-mentorship as a proven HIP, scalable, affordable and an effective acclimation and retention tool.


3. Integrate with your current systems

One of the audience polls revealed that 63% of attendees’ institutions rely on student advising to impact retention. As a student handsadvisor,Ward shared that he was responsible for advising 300+ students. With so many students to serve, can advisors fully support every student and take on additional programming? It was critical that the peer-mentorship program integrate with the student advisors’ work.

By partnering with Mentor Collective, the peer-mentors serve as a safety net for students, identifying and flagging any potential concerns at a larger scale. More students can then be appropriately referred to their advisor or other campus resources.


4. Design intentionally

Mentor Collective helps partners think about who they are serving and design a program to best meet their needs. With UW-Stout’s input, Mentor Collective implemented a Randomized Control Trial (RCT) in which half of the incoming students (200 students) were randomly designselected to be offered a peer-mentor. Like many other campuses, UW-Stout students are proud of their involvement and attendance on campus and were excited to find an opportunity to help a newer student.

There is intrinsic value in peer-mentorship and when scaled to all students, students and mentors alike are able to discover that for themselves. Aure and Ward urged any administrator thinking about mentorship to “Be thoughtful, do it well, get the evidence, be an advocate”.


About Mentor Collective: mc_logo_picture

Mentor Collective helps institutions design intentional, large-scale mentorship programs focused on creating positive change for both students and mentors.

If you’d like to revisit the webinar for yourself, click here to request a recording of the live event. For resources, news, and notifications about future webinars and learning opportunities, sign up for our newsletter on the left and follow us on social media.


Written by Sidra Tareen