• Rana Khan University of Maryland University College
  • Arhonda Gogos Independent Consultant and External Evaluator



mentoring, biotechnology, distance education, industry


The Professional Science Master’s Biotechnology program at the University of Maryland University College implemented a novel online mentoring program that pairs masters’ students with mentors from the biotechnology industry. The program has grown from 19 mentor-mentee pairs in fall 2009 to 46 pairs in fall 2011. The student retention in the program is currently 80%. Data indicate that the students who continued participating after the first semester had completed more courses before joining the program than the students who dropped. The end-of semester questionnaires show general student satisfaction and provide specific examples of gains in the students’ ability to identify and pursue their career goals. The number of courses completed by the mentees was significantly higher than the number of courses completed by the comparison group, indicating a possible effect of their participation in the mentoring program. So far, more mentees graduated than the comparison group of non-participants, and in less overall time. As the program progresses, possible effects on students’ academic achievement and time-to-graduation will be reevaluated. The effectiveness of the mentoring program on improving the participants’ career prospects after graduation will also be examined.

Author Biographies

Rana Khan, University of Maryland University College

Associate Chair, Dept of Information and Technology Systems Director. Biotechnology Program

Arhonda Gogos, Independent Consultant and External Evaluator

V. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS We would like to express our sincere thanks to Heloisa Siffert, Deborah Schroeder and Yulia Nemchinova for their help with the platform development and technical assistance; Garth Gerstein for assistance with the mentoring site customization; biotechnology program alumni Sarah Pick, Charles Bestor, and Ranee Rotter for helping get the program off the ground and commitment to their assigned pairs; Aparna Gurugunti, Syra Sikandar, Kristy Apperson and Tracy Diep for providing invaluable assistance as mentor assistants; and the PSM Advisory Board for valuable feedback. This project is being funded by the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education, US Department of Education, Grant # P116B080026. About the Authors Dr. Rana Khan is Associate Chair of Information and Technology Systems, and Professor and Director of the Biotechnology Program at the University of Maryland University College. She has several years of research experience and has given numerous presentations, both nationally and internationally, on topics related to online education including teaching science- oriented courses via the Internet and developing and using learning objects to enhance online teaching. Her research interests include the effect of mentoring on student success and retention at the graduate level, enhancing and integrating corporate involvement in degree programs, and developing strategies to increase graduate degree attainment among minorities. She has received several awards in recognition of her dedication and commitment to the cause of education and two grants from the Department of Education. Dr. Khan received her PhD from University of Maryland, College Park. Dr. Arhonda Gogos is the Evaluator of projects implemented at the Biotechnology Program and the Master of Arts in Teaching Program of the University of Maryland University College: (1) an online mentoring program that pairs students with biotechnology industry professionals; (2) a tiered mentoring program for current and future Arts and Sciences teachers; (3) a program for the improvement of English and writing skills for Hispanic graduate students She also serves as a Course Manager, overseeing more than 20 online classrooms, monitoring the instructors' engagement, and providing feedback on ways to improve their performance. As a Research Associate at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Project 2061, she worked on the clarification of science learning goals, identification of student misconceptions, and development and evaluation of science assessment items. Dr. Gogos has extensive research experience in the Biotechnology industry, with expertise in methods for structure-based drug design. She received a Ph.D. in Biophysics from the Johns Hopkins University.






Student Perspectives