We All Can Lead Because We All Can Serve: A Narrative and Visual Analysis of The Big Event at Texas A&M University
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Student Affairs professionals at American colleges and universities actively work to link students with meaningful extracurricular opportunities involving citizenship, leadership, and service ideals. Increasingly, institutions of higher education are providing extracurricular educational opportunities for students to respond and contribute to current community needs and concerns. Because of a decline in national civic engagement with American college students, universities have been called to take action and reverse this trend. Undoubtedly, The Big Event at Texas A&M University has created vast opportunities for Aggie students to understand and appreciate the role of community/university partnerships since its creation in 1982. This dissertation evaluates The Big Event as a service and leadership organization. Through narrative and the use of storytelling, this study uncovers how Texas A&M communicates the perceived importance of service and leadership and then translates this message with a day of service for the Bryan/College Station community. During this project, The Big Event student executives were interviewed regarding their leadership experiences. Research question one asked how the student leaders of The Big Event construct a narrative that emphasizes service and leadership as core values at Texas A&M. Coding and analysis of interview data revealed the emergence of four dominant themes. These themes include personal leadership development, individual leadership philosophy, service-mindedness, and the role of Texas A&M traditions. Research question two asked what is the role of narrative and storytelling in the logistics, preparation, and perpetuation of The Big Event for future improvements and expansion. Coding and analysis revealed the emergence of themes related to these three areas. Regarding logistics, the theme reported was the importance of best recruitment practices. Questions regarding preparation revealed the importance of valuable, skill-based experiences and the need for improved internal relations among student executives, committees, and volunteers. Responses relating to perpetuation included the need for articulating the vision for future expansion and strategic campus planning for national and international growth of The Big Event. In the research, the importance of civic learning was connected to current understandings and research regarding the motivations of students who choose to serve. The findings suggested important theoretical and practical implications. Specifically, narrative theory was employed through qualitative research methods to cultivate understanding and recommendations for future best practices. The application of student development theory ultimately remains a critical component of training students to be engaged citizens who co-create a better tomorrow through unity and collaboration. By investigating The Big Event, a contribution is made to current and future scholarship regarding civic engagement and service-learning in American higher education.
Bogue, Patty Ann (2014). We All Can Lead Because We All Can Serve: A Narrative and Visual Analysis of The Big Event at Texas A&M University. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from