Art – Innovation Grant

Peer Mentor Program

Faculty Lead: Chris Cassidy


Starting in the Spring of 2023, UNCG’s Art Department has started a peer mentoring program to support underclassmen, with the goal of increasing student confidence and raising retention rates. Juniors and Seniors selected by faculty recommendation have been integrated into 16 Studio Art and Art History course sections as mentors. Fourteen of these mentors are working with students in foundational studio art courses, required for all Studio Art and Art Education (K-12) students. Two mentors were dedicated to ARH 111 Global Art Histories 1, an introductory art history course that is required for all art and art history students and satisfies the MAC Diversity and Equity competency for majors and non-majors alike.

Internal data shows that the greatest drop in enrollment occurs during or after students’ second semester. This has led the art faculty to feel that intervening and providing support during these early foundational courses is the best way to ensure that students have the strong foundation needed to continue in their studies. The hope is that by strengthening their core skills, creating cross-cohort relationships, and directly identifying and assisting students who are struggling, this mentoring program will notably increase retention.

Mentors working in Foundations studio classes are embedded into studio time to provide additional support and answer student questions as needed. Studio classes involve long hours of guided and independent creative work, and the presence of mentors during this time allows students to seek additional focused help when needed. This is particularly useful when students are in need of a significant amount of assistance, more than can be provided by an instructor who needs to be available to the whole class. In studio courses, having been absent or struggling with a technique can prevent a student from progressing as expected and negatively impact their outcome and experience in the course. When these issues occur, having a peer mentor embedded in the classroom provides an extra set of hands to help fill that gap and keep students on track and feeling confident about their work.

In ARH 111, mentors are engaging with students primarily through external group study sessions. Unlike the studio classes, this course is a lecture-based class which is not well-suited to embedded mentoring. These study sessions are used to voluntarily supplement the course materials and provide a space where students can discuss content as a group and ask questions and receive feedback from peer mentors. These sessions have been well attended and generated thoughtful and engaged conversation about course content.

As a whole, students and mentors have had very positive things to say about their experiences with this program. Students have reported feeling a general reduction in anxiety about their course performance. They have felt supported and comforted both by receiving mentor assistance and knowing that there is someone available to them to answer questions and provide extra guidance if needed. Reaching out to a peer is, for many students, less intimidating than seeking extra help from faculty – who, though welcoming, new students have not yet gotten to know. Mentors have expressed the value of gaining experience working in the classroom, as many of these upper-level students want to pursue careers that may include teaching. Encouraging these students at all levels of the program to work closely together and get to know one another will also help to build a sense of community and integrate students within the department during their first year.

The feedback received from students and mentors demonstrates the utility of this project in increasing student confidence and academic outcomes. Moving forward, the project team hopes both to continue this mentorship program to the fullest extent possible, and to connect with Art History, Art Education, and Arts Administration in order to find more opportunities for peer mentoring within the School of Art.

Want to Know More?

Visit the School of Art’s website, or contact Chris Cassidy (