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Academics Student Features

CSB student shines at Scholars Showcase with research on student-mentor relationships and academic success

A College of Saint Benedict student recently showcased her undergraduate research as part of the annual Scholars Showcase, an event sponsored by the Minnesota Private College Council. The event was held on Feb. 22 at the Minnesota State Capitol and included more than two dozen students from 15 schools around the state who presented research posters in the Capitol rotunda in St. Paul.

Emma Smith, a senior psychology major from South St. Paul, Minnesota, represented CSB. She is also a Distinguished Thesis Scholar.

Smith’s research, under the mentorship of Erin Donohue, assistant professor of psychology, was titled “The Association Between Student-Mentor Relationships and College Students’ Motivation and Academic Success.”

A key component of academic success for college students is motivation. Research suggests that different aspects of college students’ lives can influence how motivated they are. One influence on students’ motivation is interpersonal relationships, specifically relationships with a mentor figure.

Meaningful interactions with formal mentors have been shown to increase students’ academic motivation. Studies conducted on the mentoring of college students have found that having a mentor is associated with career benefits; however, there is little knowledge about the association between formal mentoring and the specific type of motivation college students experience because of this relationship.

Additionally, there is little research indicating how students’ academic performance is associated with the presence of a mentor relationship. This study looks at aspects of student-mentor relationships, what motivates students to attend college, as well as a students’ academic performance, to see the association between student-mentor relationships and students’ motivation to attend college, along with overall academic performance.

“An interesting takeaway from my research is that a mentor figure can impact your motivations both extrinsically and intrinsically but also that you need to look more at a student’s academic success score and not just GPA,” Smith said. “I think my project will help others develop mentoring programs; mentors have been extremely important to me, and this research shows that it’s really important for other people too.”

Smith’s presentation at the Capitol was made possible through the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholars.

“We are so grateful to have Emma represent the CSB and SJU scholar community this year at this event,” said Lindsey Gunnerson Gutsch, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholars. “Scholars at the Capitol provides us an incredible way to show the value of students completing high-impact experiences like undergraduate research. For our students, it’s one of the best ways to show how their research can be shared in an accessible way, to benefit the larger Minnesota community.”

Project disciplines highlighted in the Scholars Showcase included: biology, chemistry, criminology, environmental science, geology, history, physics, political science, psychology, public health and sociology.