How can a mentorship program strengthen the community and help incoming students adjust to campus life? This is the prompt I chose to investigate for the 2020 Google Design Challenge. Through interviews with community leaders and collegiate students, I discovered the true value of the mentee, mentor relationship, and the common pitfalls that lead to failed mentorship initiatives. My goal was to develop a platform and mentor/mentee pairing process that:
Group mentorship program + App
To kickoff, the project, I broke down the prompt to extract “how might we” questions to guide my primary and secondary research. Then, I structured my days within the double-diamond design process framework.
Using the "how might we's" I extracted from the prompt, I brainstormed potential user groups and processes to investigate during the research phase.
To get all my ideas out on the table, I created an affinity map and organized my questions and possible solutions by user group and process.
Before interviewing potential users, I investigated technological, scientific, and sociological trends in the mentorship/personality assessment space.
Scientific & Sociological
Grossman & Roads and David Dubois's fascinating research on what makes a mentorship program successful would end up having a significant impact on my solution. In their studies, they point to the importance of structured programming and consistent interaction as critical factors in the development of lasting relationships.
In my research, I set out to discover new ways of assessing personality using digital processes. The work currently being done in the AI-video assessment space was particularly intriguing.
Now with a deeper understanding of mentorship programs and possible technical solutions, I established the project's primary research goals.
In my primary research, I investigated the extremes. I recruited students from varying socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds to learn how the perceived value of mentorship may differ.
I also spoke with two mentorship program operators; my old college professor Janis Shaeffer and Theresa Gartland, the Executive Director of Operation Progress, a mentorship program for underserved youth in Watts.
Each interview followed the same format:
To organize my insights for problem diagnosis, I constructed the following diagrams and summaries.
Theresa Gartland was a wealth of knowledge. Together, we walked through Operation progress's mentor/mentee pairing process and discussed what attributes of the process facilitate the development of the mentee/mentor relationship.
The most interesting insight I discovered during our conversation was the importance of supporting the mentor. Not only financially but through behavioral training so that they may better support their mentee.
To investigate how I could encourage students to be mentors, I interviewed students who had have been mentors or held a leadership position. I discovered two overarching motivations:
I then spoke with Janis Shaffer, Head of the Retail Merchandising mentorship program at IU. She confirmed my findings and shared her activity and training framework to "build future leaders that train future leaders."
Speaking current and future university students were incredibly valuable to my design process. It was here where I learned incoming students' core need "to belong" and the importance of finding a support group on campus.
It was interesting to learn what the different participants wanted from a group or one on one mentorship experience. The only constant, regardless of major or background, was that they wanted a mentor to share similar interests.
After synthesizing my research, I redefined the problem space. Mentorship programs are great tools to strengthen the community, but the majority of mentorship programs lack the structure and support to create lasting mentee/mentor matches.
To explore potential solutions, I mapped out the opportunity spaces and highlighted the key concepts that were communicated by operators and students. Through this exercise, I was able to solidify the structural principles that would satisfy the needs of all stakeholder groups.
To structure my creative process, I created three how might we statements, user avatars, and design principles.
How might we reinvent the mentor/mentee discovery process to increase the likely hood of match duration?
How might we create a platform that facilitates consistent mentor/mentee interaction?
How might create a support system that makes resources more accessible?
I used the journey map below as a tool for ideation. Running through the exercise helped me empathize with incoming freshman and develop potential solutions to satisfy their needs.
To come up with my big idea, I worked out my solutions visually and established the features of a new mentor/mentee matching process and facilitation application.
My design goals for the mentee on-boarding flow were to:
Before designing the high fidelity prototypes I tested my wire frames with two R.A.s.
They provided valuable insights that inspired me to make the following changes:
Relationships are built on shared interests. Mentorship app's AI powered personality and preferences assessment insures that new students will be matched with mentors that are built to last.
Consistency is integral to building lasting and impactful relationships. Mentorship app enables mentors and mentees to easily discover events, workshops and meet-ups to deepen their relationship.