Elon University Develops Holistic Mentoring Model Through ACE Learner Success Lab

​​​​​​​​​May 2022 

After persisting through a global pandemic that only exacerbated the need for evidence-based learner success strategies, participating institutions in the initial cohort of the ACE Learner Success Laboratory ​(LSL) are now wrapping up their work. Several of these LSL Cohort 1 participants are sharing their experiences and takeaways through the Lab Impact Profile series.

Elon University, a midsized comprehensive institution located in Elon, North Carolina, joined the LSL​ in 2020 as a member of the inaugural cohort. Elon wanted to build upon its rich history of engaged and experiential learning by further developing a groundbreaking mentoring model that focused on holistic mentoring constellations as both a key driver of graduate outcomes and lifelong learning and as a core component of the university’s strategic plan.​​​

Through the Lab process, Elon worked closely with ACE staff and expert Lab advisers to identify goals for their institution, craft recommendations for their university leadership, and measure outcomes from their efforts.​


Elon’s LSL steering committee guided the institution through the Lab process with full support of the president and set out to:  ​

  • ​Lead Elon’s campus-wide efforts to develop an integrated learner success strategy and maximize campus-wide ownership of the planning process
  • Complete the following foundational work on the mentoring initiatives in the university’s strategic plan
    • ​Analyzing the broad range of mentoring activities in progress at Elon
    • Studying evidence-based practices for mentoring and mentoring networks
    • Developing definitions and identifying key factors needed to advance mentoring relationships at Elon


Throughout the LSL, Elon focused foremost on mentoring relationships as a critical campus-wide initiative and component of the strategic plan. While reviewing existing mentoring initiatives as they relate to learner success and charting a path forward through the Lab process, the following recommendations from the steering committee to campus leadership emerged: 

  • ​Adopt and consistently apply a common definition of mentoring relationships that offers clarity about what constitutes a mentoring relationship
  • Center the mentoring constellation model as a signature component of an Elon education and ensure students have multiple pathways to identify and develop mentoring relationships, with attention to building agency and capacity across all years
  • Develop context-specific professional development for students, staff, faculty, alumni, and other participants in Elon's mentoring initiatives to support the integration or deepening of mentoring relationships within a constellation framework
  • Develop a centralized infrastructure with significant resources to facilitate, support, and promote Elon’s curricular and co-curricular mentoring initiatives, basing the design, delivery, and assessment of specific programs on the mentoring relationships definition and the accompanying mentoring constellation model


Elon conducted a large study with over 110 interviews of students, faculty, and staff mentors and a benchmarking survey of mentoring relationships with over 450 first-year, senior, and alumni respondents. The results of this research yielded important information about what Elon is doing well and where there are gaps, and it has helped to further refine the definition of mentoring and concept of mentoring constellations at Elon. The research is also being presented at international conferences and will be published in multiple venues. As the LSL process was concluding, the university held a campus-wide conversation to receive feedback on emergent recommendations. This work, along with other key findings through the LSL process, will continue to inform and be carried forward by an implementation team. 

Participating in the ACE Learner Success Lab has been an invaluable opportunity for us to study mentoring relationships, lay the foundation for our 2030 strategic plan, and design a mentoring constellation framework in support of all students’ learning and development."—Maureen Vandermas-Peeler, director, Center for Research on Global Engagement, and professor of psychology, Elon University ​


The Elon LSL steering committee recommends that institutions considering—or preparing for—participation in the ACE Learner Success Lab:  

  • ​Ensure broad participation and greater shared knowledge by involving more colleagues who are from different areas of the institution and who have differing perspectives in the working groups and data collection efforts
  • ​Organize and carefully monitor a timeline of all the LSL-related meetings and other activities
  • Keep in close contact with your Lab adviser and line up external consultants for the final site visit with as much advance notice as possible

The ACE Learner Success Lab

​The Learner Success Lab is an inclusive learning community that integrates evidence-based practices for persistence and completion, life design and career exploration, and workforce skills development to assist participating institutions in developing a comprehensive strategy for learner success.