This project will create a Directed Reading Program Network (DRPN) to (a) investigate the educational and social impacts of Directed Reading Programs (DRPs) and (b) support communication and best practices among already-existing DRPs. DRPs were initiated at the University of Chicago in 2003 by two of this project's senior personnel and are a widespread and growing near-peer mathematics mentoring program, currently implemented at no fewer than fourteen colleges and universities, with plans to open on at least four more campuses. DRPs are run locally by graduate students under faculty oversight, pairing graduate student mentors with undergraduate mentees to work on mathematics reading projects. Previously DRPs have been run with no centralized planning or data collection across sites, and one of the chief outcomes of this project is to rectify this oversight by intentionally documenting the work done at DRPN member institutions.
The project plans to remedy the missed opportunity to study mathematics students who participate in DRPs at a key juncture in their professional development without impeding the grassroots and student-driven design of the program. The educational research component of this project will be conducted by social psychologist Ozlem Ayduk of University of California at Berkeley, who is an expert social psychology researcher of rejection sensitivity, identity-formation, and mentor-mentee relationships in STEM fields. In addition, the project will fund a workshop at MIT in early 2018 which will enable current and planned DRPs to discuss best practices for using these programs to broaden STEM participation. Finally, a small but crucial "seed fund" will offer a boost to a selected handful of new programs to implement ideas from the workshop at a few competitively selected DRPN member institutions.