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A Profile in Student Research

A Profile in Student Research: The Impact of Mentoring Relationships for Advancement of Latina Graduate Students

by Marianna Porras ’18 and Michelle Melendres, EdD

In a 2016 report released by the Council of Graduate Schools, the majority of first-time graduate students at the master’s level or above were women (58% at the master’s level and 51% at the doctoral level). With an increased number of first-generation college students obtaining post-baccalaureate education, few studies have examined graduate students’ first-year experiences. This paper studies how mentoring relationships specifically impact Latina graduate students with their advancement in graduate education and professional careers. Many first-generation Latinas pursuing advanced degrees lack relatable academic and mentoring role models in their field. This could be significant; Latinas have the lowest percentage of graduate degrees compared to all women of other non-Hispanic racial groups. Lower academic attainment means that Latinas remain underrepresented in professions that require specialized and extensive educational preparation. The findings of this original, qualitative study, currently in progress, aim to close the literature gap on this topic by highlighting the importance of mentoring relationships, how these relationships improve the experiences of first-generation graduate students and how to better prepare students for success.

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About the Authors

Mariana Porras PortraitMARIANA PORRAS ’18 is a senior and Honors Scholar at Mount Saint Mary’s pursuing a bachelor’s degree in sociology. Upon graduation, she plans to pursue a master’s degree in social work, and become a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). Porras is a research assistant for Dr. Melendres, as well as president of the Sociology, Social Work and Gerontology Association, and member of the Institute for Student Academic Enrichment. She is also a student intern at Huntington Hospital Senior Care Network where she assists older adults and adults with disabilities, and their families, in obtaining medical resources.

Michelle Melendres PortraitMICHELLE MELENDRES, EdD, is an assistant professor in the department of sociology, coordinator of the social work and gerontology programs, and director of the Honors program at Mount Saint Mary’s. She holds a bachelor’s in gerontology and medical sociology from Mount Saint Mary’s, an MS degree in social work from Columbia University, and a doctoral degree in education from the University of California, Los Angeles.


To learn more about the research and resources from the Center for the Advancement of Women at Mount Saint Mary’s University, visit Or contact the director, Emerald Archer, PhD, at or 213.477.2544.