A Mentored Learning Experience and You

Janelle-Final

The college begins a campaign to raise $2 million for mentored learning opportunities.

At Brigham Young University, mentored learning is an initiative that encourages significant hands-on opportunities for undergraduate students to participate in faculty research or projects which contribute to the discipline. One-on-one or small group mentoring sessions with faculty members give undergraduates an educational experience that is typically only available in graduate school. Instead of striving to become a major research university, BYU has a goal to become the best undergraduate teaching university in the nation, and undergraduate mentored learning has become a significant component of achieving this goal.

Benefits for undergraduate students who get involved in faculty research or with projects contributing to the discipline include opportunities to prepare for graduate school, learn to balance collaborative and individual work, understand published works, determine a specialty area, and get a head start on their careers. Through exposure to research and discipline projects as undergraduates, nursing students also discover ways to assess comprehension, establish expectations, foster independence, maintain effective communication, and deal with ethics and diversity.

The university offers two types of grants for students to work with faculty: ORCA (Office of Research and Creative Activities) grants and MEGs (Mentoring Environment Grants). These resources are limited—the college receives funding for only about half of the proposals submitted each year—yet there are 38 full-time professors in the College of Nursing who pursue unique projects and are willing to tutor students in this work. At the same time, faculty members seek funding from other campus sources, college accounts, and external resources.

To facilitate this learning and allow as many students as possible to receive a graduate-level experience while they are undergraduates, the BYU College of Nursing has started a campaign to raise funds to provide additional mentored learning experiences and opportunities.

We are pleased to announce that a generous anonymous donor has gifted $250,000 to establish a dedicated mentored learning endowed fund in nursing. Over the next three years, the college hopes to raise an additional $1.75 million in gifts. The interest money from this endowed fund will be used for college grants for mentored learning. The awarded money will be used for things such as hiring research assistants (RAs) and obtaining materials to expand or add additional faculty research or contribution to the discipline projects.

During my discussions with undergraduate students, I sometimes find that they are intimidated by the thought of beginning scholarly works tasks on their own. However, by participating in faculty projects and the hands-on approach to learning, students can ease their fears and increase their confidence in their ability to conduct research or make a difference to the nursing profession.

The college’s current success in using undergraduate nursing students as RAs indicates that professors are able to mentor RAs and still complete their projects. Below are four examples of how faculty members have used mentored learning to enhance the education of nursing students:

1. Last year associate professor Dr. Beth Luthy mentored several nursing students, including recent graduates Brooke Saunders (BS ’14), in a collaborative project to create online immunization notes for the WIC nutrition education program. By obtaining a grant from the college, Dr. Luthy was able to allow Saunders and her peers to assist in the writing of program materials that promote immunizations and their benefits. The information will soon be available on the Women, Infants and Children program website as a learning option participants can complete to receive continued supplemental funding.

Because of this opportunity and faculty guidance, Saunders successfully fulfilled the role of an RA and learned skills as an undergraduate nursing student. Even though they did not use research tools to collect and analyze data, they learned that small actions can make a difference. Through additional donations, more students can have a similar experience and appreciate the value of mentoring in the nursing profession.

2. Assistant teaching professors Dr. Leslie Willden Miles (AS ’83, BS ’99), Dr. Linda J. Mabey, and Julie Valentine have shared their knowledge with many students—including John D. Rossi (BS ’14), Kelsie Houghtaling Pead (BS ’15), Elise Otteson (fifth semester), and Sage Williams (third semester)—during the past two years in their research with sexual assault victims. These students said that joining a faculty research project was an invaluable experience that enhanced their nursing education. Many were involved from the project’s start and even learned firsthand how to receive approval to initiate a research idea and the administrative steps needed to conduct the project. Possibilities for further nursing research and career paths branched out from the experience. Together the group shared their findings through written and oral presentations to other nursing students, professionals, and colleagues.

The RAs said it was a great benefit to learn directly from a faculty member. Because the faculty mentors had obtained college and university grants and other sources of funding for the studies, the RAs were also monetarily compensated for their time. The college’s endowment campaign will allow more students to work directly with faculty members in their projects.

3. Associate teaching professor Karen Miller Lundberg (AS ’79) and assistant teaching professor Debra Edmunds mentor students and involve them in their studies on refugee and immigrant experiences. Rachel Nebeker Eddy (BS ’15), and capstone students Hortencia Gutierrez, Madison Pachner, and Lindsey Doman developed project-planning, management, and computer skills during the project. They also learned to disseminate findings by helping the faculty give a podium presentation at the North American Refugee Health Conference in Canada last summer and by preparing an article for journal submission.Assistant professor Dr. Bret Lyman is currently mentoring two RAs in his learning history research project (see page 20 for details). Lindsey Shaw and Lisa Echols (both in their fifth semester) have worked with him since he started the project, and Kalene Mears (BS ’15) was involved until her graduation last December. If he had additional funds, Dr. Lyman would be able to include as many as four more nursing students in his research. So far his RAs have learned that research can be exciting as well as complex by following the rigors of research procedures and standards. Instead of having them simply carry out assigned tasks, he helps his students propose subprojects that they can complete independently; together they understand the scope of the project, and then they each undertake tasks to complete it. Because of this guidance in the mentored learning environment, Shaw, Echols, and Mears have gained much more than a greater understanding of nursing—they have developed application, organization, and leadership skills.

4. Assistant professor Dr. Bret Lyman is currently mentoring two RAs in his learning history research project (see page 20 for details). Lindsey Shaw and Lisa Echols (both in their fifth semester) have worked with him since he started the project, and Kalene Mears (BS ’15) was involved until her graduation last December. If he had additional funds, Dr. Lyman would be able to include as many as four more nursing students in his research. So far his RAs have learned that research can be exciting as well as complex by following the rigors of research procedures and standards. Instead of having them simply carry out assigned tasks, he helps his students propose subprojects that they can complete independently; together they understand the scope of the project, and then they each undertake tasks to complete it. Because of this guidance in the mentored learning environment, Shaw, Echols, and Mears have gained much more than a greater understanding of nursing—they have developed application, organization, and leadership skills.

With the establishment of the BYU College of Nursing Mentored Learning Endowed Fund, support for mentored research and student learning in our nursing program will greatly increase. I encourage you to participate in this campaign and make a donation to the fund. You may use the envelope inserted in this magazine, or go online to give.byu.edu/nursing (and select “Mentored Learning” as the account).

We will provide updates on this campaign at nursing.byu.edu and include donor names in the next issue of this publication. Stay tuned!

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