SF BUILD engages Mentor Collective to advance near-peer mentoring in uncertain times

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San Francisco State University and the SF BUILD program have partnered with Mentor Collective, an organization that helps universities run large-scale mentoring programs, to provide a digital platform for near-peer mentoring. The platform will help match hundreds of incoming undergraduates with senior students to develop peer-mentorships, for example pairing an advanced biology major with an incoming biology student. Peers will be matched according to their preferences and will be able to do things like text confidentially with one another as they navigate the often treacherous terrain of higher education.

This partnership comes at a time where connecting with others is limited to digital spaces. Like many students across the world, San Francisco State University students transitioned to remote learning last year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While adjusting to the sudden switch to an online-only education, students experienced many hardships including loss of loved ones in their families and communities, obstacles to living and learning due to economic downturns, and the raging fires throughout California that turned skies dark orange and made the air unbreathable. 

Despite these hardships, many students engaged in activism as part of the national racial reckoning. As a result, academic advising sessions often became a time when students shared painful stories with faculty, as well as stories of their strength and resilience in overcoming systemic obstacles to their success in science. In these traditional mentoring relationships, the students frequently provide the knowledge and skills gained by their lived experiences challenging inequity. These knowledges and skills are termed “resistant capital” by Tara J. Yosso in her 2005 paper.  Perhaps more than at any other time, students felt heard by faculty, who learned from these conversations. This shift in dynamics raised an important question: who was mentoring whom?

In a system of higher education where professors are primarily white and systematically advantaged, students from backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in STEM may feel disconnected from faculty and unsupported.  The SF BUILD faculty Research Enrichment Core’s co-leader Blake Riggs, Ph.D., hopes that through the Mentor Collective, peer-to-peer relationships may bridge this gap left by traditional faculty mentorships. 

“We anticipate that this activity will provide synergistic benefits to both mentors and mentees in keeping with our published paper on near-peer mentoring (Trujillo et al., 2016),” Riggs said. “Importantly, mentees will benefit from the authentic experiences and resistant capital of their [peer] mentors in attaining educational success during these uncertain times.”


Trujillo, G., Aguinaldo, P.G., Anderson, C., Bustamante, J., Gelsinger, D.R., Pastor, M.J., Wright, J., Márquez-Magaña, L.M., and Riggs, B. 2016. Near-peer STEM Mentoring Offers Synergistic Benefits for Historically Underrepresented Minority Students. Special Issue of PURM 4.1:1.

Yosso, T.J. 2005. Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth. Race Ethnicity and Education. –91.


The Diversity Program Consortium Coordination and Evaluation Center at UCLA is supported by Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health / National Institutes of General Medical Sciences under award number U54GM119024.
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