You are here:

Mentoring over distance: The construction of the student-faculty relationship in a doctoral program for mid-life adults

, The Fielding Institute, United States

The Fielding Institute . Awarded


This is a study of mentoring and the student-faculty relationship in a combined distance-residential program that offers doctoral degrees in clinical psychology, human development, or human and organizational systems. It extends the study of mentoring, which has long been considered an important factor in traditional university programs, to the distance learning environment. An archival database from the Fielding Institute's Student Diversity and Development Study (SDDS) was used. This longitudinal study of 30 volunteer research participants provided a database that included in-depth, face-to-face interviews conducted with each participant at two different points in time. These interviews had all been audiotaped and transcribed and had been returned to the participants for corrections and comments. Twenty-three participants completed both interviews, and these interviews became the basis for the current study. Narrative methodology using both holistic and content analyses showed that students in this distance learning context perceived the student-faculty relationship to be a critical part of their doctoral experience. The relationships that students developed with faculty varied in form from classic and alternative mentoring relationships to advisor/advisee relationships. Many participants described the process of initiating relationships as difficult, and clinical psychology students were less likely to develop mentoring relationships than those in the human and organization development program. The experience of power in relationship, that is, whether the relationship was deemed to be hierarchical or more equal, was an important theme. However, the most important relational quality sought by students was evidence of mutuality. Students constructed their relationships via a number of different pathways. The findings taken together suggest a fluid model of mentoring that gives consideration to our growing understanding of the ways that an experience of mutuality is constructed in developmental relationships and to the developmental needs of adults at mid-life.


Dixon, D.B. Mentoring over distance: The construction of the student-faculty relationship in a doctoral program for mid-life adults. Ph.D. thesis, The Fielding Institute. Retrieved November 12, 2019 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

Citation reproduced with permission of ProQuest LLC.

For copies of dissertations and theses: (800) 521-0600/(734) 761-4700 or